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Jordan Spieth Makes History From The Driving Range

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If there’s such a thing as a true closer in the game of golf, Spieth has done everything in his young career to solidify his place as a true closer. With the exception of a shotty seven-minute stretch at the 2016 Masters, Spieth has closed the door more violently than anyone other than Tiger Woods in the last 30 years. Converting eight of his last nine previous 54-hole leads into victories, there seemed to be little question that he’d slam the door on Kuchar and the field on this Sunday at Royal Birkdale. Yet, with three bogies in the first four holes, maybe it was Kuchar’s time. Steady Eddie Kuchar did what he was supposed to. Making the turn in even par next to Spieth’s three-over, they were tied at the top.

The pair plodded along Nos. 10-12 without fireworks, but at No. 13 Spieth hit a drive that Johnny Miller said “may have been the worst drive I’ve ever seen a pro hit.”

It was bad. Real bad. Over the river and through the woods, to a Titleist truck they went. Spieth never looked as though the wheels were falling off to that point; he just seemed uncomfortable. But when he put his hands on his head as he watched his tee ball disappear into driving-range obscurity, it seemed his fate was all but sealed. No Claret Jug for Jordan.

Yet 28 minutes later, he dropped a ball onto the impact area of the Royal Birkdale driving range after taking an unplayable lie penalty. Then he yelled at his caddie, Michael Greller, “Michael, number?” Greller turned around and looked toward the green that had to be 180 yards from the top of his sand dune. Another yell from Spieth, “Mike! You can’t stand there!”

Greller would move, and Spieth would hit his driving iron a little chunky. But it stopped just out of the dangerous gorse and short of a pot bunker, leaving him a chip and putt for a bogey. All the while Matt Kuchar was stuck taking a knee in the fairway as the second-to-last group made its way three holes ahead.

Bogey he would make, and Kuchar snuggled his birdie putt to leave a tap-in for par. For the first time all weekend, Spieth didn’t have a share of the lead. The final group headed into the par-3 14th with Kuchar ahead by one.

In Tiger Woods fashion, Spieth stepped up to the tee and striped a six-iron at the 200-yard par-3. He missed making an ace by less than a couple inches, deflating any hope Kuchar had of maintaining his one-shot lead with a par. Spieth would make that birdie as Kuchar logged another par. Back to all square with four to play.

Standing on the par-5 15th hole, Spieth pulled out the driver and all the world inhaled deeply, holding their breath to see if he’d rip another drive off the planet. He wouldn’t; he’d stripe it right down the fairway and Kuchar would follow. With Kuchar not on the green in two, Spieth pounded a 3-wood to the front edge, leaving an eagle putt that would be outside the normal range for mere mortals. Kuchar got it on the green and left a makeable birdie putt, but it wouldn’t matter. Spieth would drain his putt for eagle and walk off the green with instructions for Michael Greller to “Go get that!”

Kuchar made a solid birdie at No. 15, but it wasn’t enough. Spieth walked to the 16th with the solo lead once again. Another long birdie rolled in for Spieth on No. 16 and sent him to No. 17 with a two-shot lead after Kuchar made a ho-hum par.

Kuchar and Spieth went opposite ways off the tee at No. 17, yet they both walked off with birdies after taking the three-shot approach.

After the driving-range bogey, there didn’t seem to be anything Spieth could do to make double-bogey at No. 18, and he didn’t. A slightly right tee shot left him with a decent lie and a decent number into the green. He’d put his approach on the front half of the green while Kuchar would find a pot bunker. Two putts for par was enough for Spieth to win by three as Kuchar bogeyed No. 18 and the final pairing posted a pair of 69s.

Five-under in the last five holes of a major championship is unheard of, especially after such an abysmal start by the eventual champion. Spieth has done things we’ve never seen done before since the day he came on the PGA Tour. His flair for the dramatic has shown up time and time again, most recently in his last PGA Tour win at the Travelers where he holed a bunker shot for birdie to beat Daniel Berger in a playoff. Finishing birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie-par at Royal Birkdale to hoist his first Claret Jug and third major victory is truly dramatic.

Spieth is the second youngest to win three legs of the career grand slam, and he’s the youngest American Open Champion ever. And it seems that everyone else is going to have to hit the driving range to give Spieth a run for his money atop golf’s modern Mount Rushmore.

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Adam Crawford is a writer of many topics but golf has always been at the forefront. An avid player and student of the game, Adam seeks to understand both the analytical side of the game as well as the human aspect - which he finds the most important. You can find his books at his website, chandlercrawford.com, or on Amazon.

48 Comments

48 Comments

  1. Jerry

    Jul 25, 2017 at 8:24 am

    Look, we all get caught up in the moment, and Jordan’s finishes are dramatic. But 2015 Masters …(drops mic)

  2. piter

    Jul 25, 2017 at 1:14 am

    So why is this historic again? Coz he missed the fairway big time? or coz he needed 25 minutes between shots? Or coz he is the second youngest winner of something? If you are the 122nd youngest winner, wouldnt that be equally historic? Maybe we should call him a hero too…

  3. Jack Nash

    Jul 24, 2017 at 3:49 pm

    Had to be one of the crapier played final rounds in a Major that I’ve seen in decades. Lucky for Spieth he was playing Kucher. Mr Top 10 was never going to be a threat. It was up to Jordan and his breaks Not to lose it.

  4. nyguy

    Jul 24, 2017 at 12:00 pm

    Didn’t really feel like the open this time around, and that 30 mins spieth took was bs…. make the decision and take the shot. Felt like the PGA was bending over backward for spieth.. and the commentary was chill inducing…

    • xjohnx

      Jul 24, 2017 at 1:35 pm

      For the record the PGA has nothing to do with the Open. I don’t disagree with you about it taking too long but this was an odd case. When the rules officials can’t even figure out what to do it changes the argument.

  5. LL

    Jul 24, 2017 at 10:56 am

    Don’t have an issue with Jordan taking advantage of the rules but I do have an issue with the amount of time he took and was allowed! It does not seem fair that Kuchar had a clear advantage on the hole but had to wait 20+mins to make his putts, perhaps killing his momentum. Some of Kuchar’s following shots seemed to suffer from maybe stiffening up while waiting around?!

  6. chris franklin

    Jul 24, 2017 at 10:54 am

    Verifies the old adage that in golf it’s better to be lucky than good.

  7. Brian Crookes

    Jul 24, 2017 at 10:02 am

    Is it me? or did anyone else find it odd that Spieth’s driver was laying down behind him after his drop and seemed to be pointing to the green, which I thought was a penalty…

  8. xjohnx

    Jul 24, 2017 at 9:48 am

    I wonder how much Titleist would have hypothetically spent on making sure their trailer was parked there instead of one of the other ones. Talk about perfect advertising.

    • Er

      Jul 24, 2017 at 11:27 am

      Yeah. That photo is priceless. Titleist must be laughing their heads off.

  9. Pelling

    Jul 24, 2017 at 8:47 am

    “I will not be counting this as a major victory”

    Good luck with that, let us know how it works out for you.

  10. Tom54

    Jul 24, 2017 at 8:36 am

    I watched the Open and they never quite explained exactly where his tee ball finished on 13. All they said was he took an unplayable. Did it go in a bush, in The gorse? They didn’t really show him picking up the ball where ever it wound up. Great bogey and the finish is what great players find a way to do.

  11. Markallister

    Jul 24, 2017 at 3:36 am

    driving range in bounds? i will not be counting this as a major victory. was his drop taken within the spirit of the game or within the letter of the rules. i’ll let you decide. some people might call him jordan cheath. i would refrain from such extremity, however.

    • eeehaun

      Jul 24, 2017 at 5:10 am

      I would partially agree with your observation, however, if they deemed #10 OB playing from #9 tee DURING THE PRACTICE ROUNDS then you can’t fault Spieth for utilizing the rules that were set forth before play began. He didn’t cheat anybody and given how many officials were in the neighborhood of that 15-minute debacle it certainly wasn’t on him to determine its validity. If you wanna bark up someone’s tree give the R&A a call. Otherwise quit yelling at the folks who aren’t on your lawn.

      • Markallister

        Jul 24, 2017 at 8:57 am

        i think ultimately the player is responsible. in this scenario the player did not act within the spirit of the game, because it is well-known that practice facilities are not part of the course. he should have done the right thing and played the ball as it was.

        • J

          Jul 24, 2017 at 5:24 pm

          If it isn’t marked as OB then it is part of the course. Every course I have played has had the driving ranged marked as OB, but if it isn’t marked as OB, which in this case it wasn’t, then it is fair game to take a drop in.

    • golfraven

      Jul 24, 2017 at 7:27 am

      I was also surprised there was no OB. Ah well, he made the best out of it also honering his sponsor. It could not have played better for Titleist.

    • Pelling

      Jul 24, 2017 at 8:46 am

      “I will not be counting this as a major victory”

      Good luck with that, let us know how it works out for you.

      • Markallister

        Jul 24, 2017 at 8:59 am

        well, i think it is only a matter of time, before my count will become the official one.

        • IHateGolfIsAwesome

          Jul 24, 2017 at 2:01 pm

          They had 2 of the foremost rules officials from Europe right there while the decisions were being made. Not sure how you feel your call will eventually overrule theirs. Plus the driving range was in bounds all week. A pre-tourney rule.

    • lopey986

      Jul 24, 2017 at 9:07 am

      Except they covered that after the round on the golf channel. The driving range is considered playable every single day for members so they kept those rules the same for this event.

    • xjohnx

      Jul 24, 2017 at 9:55 am

      Serious question. How many PGA tour events and/or majors mark the practice range as OB? I know most courses incorporate this as a local rule exclusively for player safety. I personally would consider a professional tournament an exception from this. If a player walks onto the range to hit a shot, professionals are not going to try to hit him. Your local course, all bets are off.

      I also feel like some people are saying he should have been penalized as if he hit it there. Remember he did not hit it onto the range that “should be OB”. He hit his drive well within the imaginary stakes.

      • Dave

        Jul 24, 2017 at 11:45 am

        Their point is that if it were OB then he would no be permitted to take a drop there.

        • xjohnx

          Jul 24, 2017 at 11:57 am

          Dave, I know. I was wondering how often that’s really the case in these tournaments. I genuinely have no idea.

    • TexasSnowman

      Jul 25, 2017 at 10:10 pm

      Golf Channel reported that the Driving Range is played as ‘in bounds’ by the members and the R&A made decision to keep it that way as they prefer to have the Open Course play as similar to members play as feasible.

  12. Rich

    Jul 24, 2017 at 2:17 am

    So sick of the American golfing press jumping on the latest flavour every 5 mins. So what, Spieth wins the Open. 5 mins ago they were saying John Rahm was going to be winning everything and five minutes before that they were pissing in Brooks Koepka’s pocket because he won the US Open. They’ll forget about Spieth in 5 more minutes of he doesn’t win the next one too. Pathetic, predictable and boring.

    • TexasSnowman

      Jul 25, 2017 at 10:14 pm

      As a Texan, I am a Speith fan but I agree with you this is true in all sports, whoever wins is all unicorns and puppy-dogs. Boring, true.

  13. Someone

    Jul 24, 2017 at 12:14 am

    doesn’t anyone have a problem with the fact that it took 28 minutes to play the hole and they were two holes behind on the field? i mean c’mon…we never get a gallery to help us find our ball. we don’t get an immediate rules official to show up at our beckon call.

    it ought to be where the player must use their judgement, just like we do. They can face their consequences at the end of the round for any misplayed shots. part of playing the game is also knowing the game.

    i don’t get paid millions and when i lose my ball or possibly have a chance of losing my ball, i have to play a provisional or go back to the last spot i took my shot.

    i get it, they’re playing for millions, whatever. that shouldn’t change the game…

    • dan mcco

      Jul 24, 2017 at 10:06 am

      The 1/2 hour delay is my major issue. The twosome had already been asked to speed up play before the hole. Total time to get a ruling can’t be more than a couple of minutes. The rest was on Spieth. Now I expect every group in front of me to take however long they want to play their unplayables. He should have received a penalty for slow play.

  14. Dat

    Jul 23, 2017 at 6:32 pm

    I fully agree.

  15. Ude

    Jul 23, 2017 at 6:16 pm

    Sooooo true lover
    I want you to keep 2 things coming and one is your great comments

    • M S m i z z l e

      Jul 23, 2017 at 7:37 pm

      Y’all bringing back the fun like before I got blocked…
      Keep it up yo

  16. dr bloor

    Jul 23, 2017 at 5:39 pm

    “Titleist: Our irons are exactly what you need to get out of the trouble our drivers put you in.”

  17. Matt

    Jul 23, 2017 at 4:51 pm

    Brilliant example of links golf and what a win for Spieth.

  18. Wilson

    Jul 23, 2017 at 4:08 pm

    Someone whispered the driving range is usually OB.

    • Adam Crawford

      Jul 23, 2017 at 4:36 pm

      They addressed that after the coverage. The RA made the decision to play the Range in bounds because that’s how the members play it day to day. It was the first question Spieth asked when the official came over.

    • CrashTestDummy

      Jul 23, 2017 at 6:14 pm

      Yeah, if it was considered OB he wouldn’t of been able to drop there. However, where his ball ended up off the tee shot would of likely been in bounds. In that scenario, he would probably go back to the tee and re-hit his tee shot.

      Being able to hit from the range saved him a lot of distance so he could get the third shot closer to the green and have a good chance at bogey. If he re-hit his tee shot the likely scenario would of been a double bogey.

      • Brice Truitt

        Jul 23, 2017 at 9:17 pm

        There’s no “probably” about it. Had his initial tee shot been OB, he would’ve had to re-tee it. Would’ve been no other options.

  19. Tommy

    Jul 23, 2017 at 3:57 pm

    Shoddy…..not “shotty”. C’mon Adam..killing me

    • Adam Crawford

      Jul 23, 2017 at 4:33 pm

      Sorry, I couldn’t find it on Urban Dictionary.

      • Anonymouz

        Jul 23, 2017 at 4:58 pm

        Try Merriam-Webster. It’s shoddy. It’s an actual word.

  20. ooffa

    Jul 23, 2017 at 3:57 pm

    What’s in your bag?

  21. Sam

    Jul 23, 2017 at 2:45 pm

    You can’t beat lucky, skilled and God’s gift to putting

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Opinion & Analysis

2023 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am: Betting Tips & Selections

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Here we go again.

After the multi-course American Express and the two-track Farmers, the PGA Tour arrives at the legendary Pebble Beach for this week’s AT&T.

Shorter than the average tour event, the coastline course/s deliver a reasonably simple test for the high-level celebrities and their professional playing partners, but this changes dramatically should any of the famed coastal weather arrive.

Bad enough for those paid to hit a dimpled ball, it can turn an amateur’s enjoyable (and expensive) round into something horrendous like this.

Three players clearly stand head-and-shoulders above the rest, both in terms of quality and world ranking, and they do have figures that justify that – in spades.

Favourite Jordan Spieth is the King of Pebble. His record here is unsurpassed, and he relishes the challenges of this seaside terrain.

However, with no serious turn in conditions, I’m not sure his current game is much to go on. The 29-year-old has missed the cut in two of his last six starts, the best results coming in limited field events at two of the FedEx play-off events and the Tournament of Champions.Not as if Spieth needs to be in form – he won the RBC Heritage last year after a run of mc/35/35/mc, but even a win, runner-up, third , fourth, seventh and ninth, it always feels as if you take your life in your own hands when backing him at 10/1 and less.

Matt Fitzpatrick and Viktor Hovland make up the elite trio, all residing in the top-16 of the world rankings.

Both justify being alongside the Texan at the top of the market, although until last season’s closing sixth place finish, only Fitz’s 12th at the 2019 U.S Open was worth noting from an event formline of missed-cut and 60th.

Interestingly, the Norwegian matched that finish three years ago, becoming low amateur for the second major in a row, and both are hard to argue against.

With combined wins in Mayakoba, Puerto Rico and Dubai, as well as top finishes at various Open championships, conditions suit both equally well. Choosing between them is tough enough, but with home players winning 27 of the last 30 events held here (17 of the last 18) and with doubts about the motivation for playing this week, they can all be left alone at combined odds of around 9/4.

The draw is probably as crucial here as any other event, with Pebble Beach having some of the smallest greens on tour and Spyglass Hill being affected occasionally by similar winds. Make the score at Monterey Peninsula, if at all possible.

Despite the quality up front, the section that includes defending champion Tom Hoge, Maverick McNealey, Andrew Putnam and Seamus Power has equally strong credentials for the title.

Hoge aims to become only the second player to defend this title since 2000 and, whilst playing as well as ever, is no Dustin Johnson, whilst it’s hard to put McNealey in front of the Irishman given the latter’s 2-0 lead in PGA Tour wins, and 3-zip if you count the KFT.

Power ranks in the top echelons of players with form at short courses and is easy to make a case for in an event at which he opened up a five shot lead at one point last year, before finishing in ninth.

The 35-year-old has never been better, now ranked inside the top-30 after a season that included that top-10 here and again at Southern Hills, a top-12 behind Fitz at Brookline, third at Mayakoba and fifth at the RSM. The highlight, of course, was the victory in Bermuda, sitting nicely with his first victory at the Barbasol, that Kentucky event showing links to proven coastal/short course player Kelly Kraft (runner-up here to Spieth in 2019) and Aaron Baddeley and Kevin Streelman, with six top-10 finishes between them at the AT&T.

Rather like the player he beat in that Barbasol play-off (J.T Poston) Power is fairly easy to read, and although the very nature of pro-ams doesn’t suit everyone, the course make-up suits perfectly.

Usually consistent and in the top echelons for tee-to-green, greens-in regulation, and for up-and-down, Power comes here looking to recover from an unusually poor performance on the large Abu Dhabi putting floors. Certainly the figures look awry compared with his 10 strokes gained for tee-to-green and 12th for around-the-green, and it’s easy to see improvement in California, where in 2022 he lay in fourth place into Sunday at the pro-am at La Quinta, as well as a previous ninth place finish at the Barracuda (fifth into Sunday).

He’s the best of the week but I’m also including:

Alex Smalley – We were on 26-year-old Smalley for the American Express a few weeks ago and he was going well until the PGA West (Nicklaus) caught him out, causing a drop into 62nd from 21st place, and close to two of the other three selections this week, as well as Garrick Higgo, who just missed out due to lack of experience here.

The recovery into a place just outside the top-20 was impressive, though, with a final round 63 comprising 10 of 14 fairways and 15 of 18 greens in regulation, as well as making all his putts under 10 feet.

Those sorts of figures have been expected from the outstanding Duke graduate, who made his PGA Tour debut as an amateur at the 2017 U.S Open. Since then, it hasn’t been plain sailing, indeed he has yet to win an event despite an excellent return to this level in 2022.

Starting with a best-of-Sunday 65 to finish tied runner-up at Corales, he then finished in the top six behind Jon Rahm and co in Mexico, 10th at the Scottish Open and 13th at Sedgefield.

Since October, Smalley has made seven of nine cuts, highlights being 11th at Bermuda and a pair of top-five finishes at the RSM and Houston, all contributors to the tee-to-green stats that see him rank 1/2/6/11/13 for his ball-striking and significant given the test this week..

He couldn’t get it going at Waialae for the Sony but followed up the La Quinta effort with a top-40 at Torrey Pines, when his tee-to-green game was again perfectly respectably ranked in 33rd given the strength of the field.

Runner-up in the Dominican Republic, fourth and 15th in Houston, and with form at Colonial and Bermuda, this looks the prefect test for a player that at least had a look last year, and that the bookmakers simply cannot make their mind up about.

Robby Shelton – Makes his event debut here this week in his second time at the top level, but the former Walker Cup player has enough relevant form to make him of interest, particularly after a sixth place at the multi-course American Express a few weeks ago, his best finish in California so far.

Shelton included Scottie Scheffler and Ben Griffin as play-off victims when winning two of a total of four KFT events in 2019 and 2022, coming here after making eight out of ten cats (yeah, I know) since arriving back on tour in September.

Best efforts are 15th at the Shriners and a top-10 at the RSM, but let’s also throw in a sixth at Mayakoba, 11th at the Honda and a top-20 in Texas.

This is a drop in class, and significantly in distance, from Torrey Pines and I’d expect to see more advantage taken here.

Harrison Endycott – One of the Player To Follow for this season, it’s hard to work out exactly what the 26-year-old Aussie wants in terms of course set-up, but given his heritage and junior career, it’s fairly certain he can play well in the wind.

Having made his way through the grades including a win, two top-10s and two top-20s on the KFT, he wasted little time making his mark at the highest level, finishing tied-12th at the Fortinet in California, a joint best-of-the-day 65 launching him up the board on day three.A month later, Endycott started the Bermuda Championship with a pair of double-bogeys before signing for an opening nine-under 62, the catalyst for another career top-10, and in November he overcame a poor opening round at his home PGA Championship (111th) before flying through the field as the event progressed, finishing a never-nearer 18th behind Cam Smith.

Even the missed-cut at the Australian Open was not devoid of promise, an opening 68 seeing him start the second round in 7th place.

With a pedigree in Australia and a residence in Scottsdale, I’ll take the chance he will find something back in California, scene of the best of three events in 2023 – 22nd at the American Express – when his game showed the all-round prowess it did in Scottsdale – top-11 in approach and top-15 tee-to-green.

Recommended Bets:

  • Seamus Power – WIN
  • Alex Smalley – WIN/TOP-5
  • Robby Shelton – WIN-TOP-10
  • Harrison Endycott – WIN/TOP-20
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Opinion & Analysis

2023 Farmers Insurance Open: Betting Tips & Selections

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Get your bets on earlier than usual this week as the Farmers Insurance Open runs Wednesday to Saturday, the advancement of a day avoiding a clash with the NFL Conference Championship games.

We raise the bar a notch as the tour reaches Torrey Pines, a course used for this (and related) events since 1968, although the current set-up on the South Course now measures almost 1000 yards than the one seen 55 years ago.

Now utilising the easier North Course for one round, players will still need to have their grinding game as the weekend progresses over a course re-configured for the 2021 U.S Open – won by this week’s hot favourite Jon Rahm – and one that has seen the last three winners score no better than 15-under.

As my learned GolfWRX colleague says:

While last year’s winner Luke List was a shock, beaten play-off rival Will Zalatoris certainly fits the bill in becoming the last of a long line of contenders at Torrey that have challenged at the majors.

Patrick Reed, Marc Leishman, Justin Rose and, of course, seven times Torrey winner Tiger Woods, would all be seen as elite in their time, and you can confidently add the likes of runners-up Tony Finau, Adam Scott and Xander Schauffele to those.

Greens change to Poa Anna this week, and with the home course possessing suitably tough greens, players need solid tee-to-green games to remain with a chance down the back-stretch on Saturday afternoon. Forget the pitch and putt of La Quinta and friends, this week is far from a repeat.

You would be forgiven for thinking this is the Woods era, a solid 4/1 shot heading the market.

Tiger he is not, but having won four of his last five events and winning the Farmers here in 2017 and the U.S Open four years later, Jon Rahm carries almost unbeatable status into this week. However, much depends on getting the right draw over the first two days – at the price he can be left alone.

With the trophy likely to go to one of the better fancied players, here’s a chance to select two or three from the next half-dozen and still look at a better return than backing the favourite – and, for me, Tony Finau and Jason Day fit the bill.

Unlike someone like J.T Poston, I can’t seem to call Tony Finau right, but if he is ever going to repay the faith, it is here.

Having raised his game to another level in winning back-to-back at Minnesota and Detroit, the 33-year-old was fancied to go well in Mayakoba. Naturally, he missed his first cut since the US Open in June, subsequently gagging up in Houston, making it three wins in seven starts – not Rahm (or Scheffler of early ’22) but not far behind.

Fancied to do another back-to-back special, Finau then withdrew from the RSM Classic before probably needing the run-out when 7th at the Hero World Challenge. – extremely frustrating but, on face value, continuing a career-best run.

2023 has seen encouragement in both starts, with eight rounds in the 60s leading to a seventh place at Kapalua and a most recent 16th at last week’s pro-am jolly, where he came from outside the top 60 on Thursday and from 34th at the cut mark.

Finau’s tee-to-green game remains of the highest class, ranking ninth in ball-striking over three months and third over six, but it’s now matched by a putting prowess that takes advantage of his constant green finding.

Events may be limited, but over the last 14 rounds or so, Big Tone leads the tour in putting average, beating even the likes of flying Jon Rahm. Sure, you can regard that as a skewed stat, so take it over another 12 weeks and he is in third – remarkable for someone that just a year ago was known for missing the vital ones.

Take the 2021 U.S Open away and Finau has four top-six finishes and a pair of top-20s here, and ignore last year’s missed weekend too – he was in the top-10 after the first round and was simply not at the races on day two.

Finau’s record on poa greens reads well enough – he won the Rocket Mortgage, and has top-10s at Riviera, Winged Foot and Olympia Fields, the latter pair giving credence to the Torrey/majors connection, whilst connecting Memorial form sees him record two top-10s and two top-15 finishes.

Being unconvinced that either Zalatoris’ or Justin Thomas’ games are pitch perfect, TF looks the best challenge to the favourite.

The favourite’s record in California is almost too good to be true, with four wins, seven top-5s and three top-10s but if anyone can challenge that, it’s surely Jason Day, who looks as if he is now fully recovered from injury and personal tragedy.

Winner here in 2015 and 2018, the Aussie also boasts a runner-up, third and fifth place around tough Torrey and an average position of 15th from 14 Pebble Beach outings. He loves California.

Having dropped from world number one to outside of the top-100 in five seasons, the 35-year-old has fought back from adversity to make his way back up the rankings, helped by a pair of top-10 finishes at, no surprise, Pebble and Torrey.

In order to protect what has been a fragile back, the 16-time major top-10 star reached out to swing coach Chris Como, formally an aide of Tiger Woods.

“Going into this year I did some swing changes with my coach, and I feel like those are slowly cementing themselves in there,” Day said on Golf Channel.

“I’m shallowing it out,” Day continued. “The swing has changed dramatically. It took me about a year and half to get the body correct, and the body movement correct until I could actually get into shallowing it out correctly.”

Judged on the latest figures, it seems to be coming together nicely.

Day ended 2022 with four cuts from five, including 8th at Shriners, 11th at the CJ Cup, 21st at Mayakoba and 16t in Houston, and last weekend finished in the top 20 at La Quinta having been third after two rounds.

16th for ball-striking over the last three months, slightly better over six, his top-30 for driving accuracy has led to a similar ranking for greens found. Take that, and any improvement, into an event he enjoys more than most, and we have a winning formula.

Away from the top, it’s hard to get excited about the chances of many.

Having nabbed a big-priced second last week with one of the 12 Players-to-Watch 2023, it is tempting to go back in again on Davis Thompson on a course that may suit even better. However, hitting 14 out of 18 greens at the Stadium Course is a far cry from a debut at Torrey Pines and he may just need the sighter.

Taylor Montgomery calls himself after his fourth top-five in just nine full-time starts on the PGA, particularly after a debut 11th as a sponsor’s invite last year. Prices in the 20s don’t appeal at all against proven and regular winners though, so take a chance on another top finish from the defending champion Luke List.

For someone that believes List is Dye-positive, his first win on the poa greens of Torrey Pines was a bit of a shocker.

I put the 38-year-old up as a lively top-10 bet last week, when the thought process was that this long driver should only need to drive and flip to the greens, but sadly his game was all over the place. However, I’ll take another chance in conditions that clearly suit last year’s play-off victor, a win that came off four straight cuts here that included a 10th and 12th placed finish.

Since the start of the 2022 season, List has 11 top-25 rankings for driving, five for approaches and seven for tee-to-green, whilst it was only a couple of starts ago that he matched the best at Kapalua.

As for the fabled short stick, it’s a case of being with him when he just works better than field average – 6th at Bethpage Black, in two of his four completions at Riviera and in three of five outings at Silverado, all of a  similar grass type.

Players constantly repeat form here at Torrey, so whilst he may not do a 1-2 or, indeed, a 2-1 on the lines of Mickelson, Day, Snedeker and Leishman to name a few, List is very capable of pulling out a finish on the first two pages of the board.

Recommended Bets:

  • Tony Finau Win 
  • Jason Day Win-Top-5 
  • Luke List Top-10 
  • Luke List Top-20 
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Opinion & Analysis

2023 American Express: Betting Tips & Selections

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Last week’s Sony Open saw the unusual occurrence of a top-10 devoid of a name that had played the Tournament of Champions, and yet eventual champion Si Woo Kim won his fourth PGA event, all on Bermuda greens.

Sometimes, like picking the week that a poor putter knocks in 30-footers, it’s just picking the right stat on the right day.

The tour makes the annual return to southern California for the charity pro-am event, where in its 63 history many courses have played host to the great and the good of the entertainment world. And Bill Murray.

For us, concerned with only who might win and at what price, we return to a three course rotation on which one one player in the last 16 years has won in under 20-under and an in an event that has seen four of the last 10 winners start at triple figures, with Adam Long going off at 500-1+.

Put simply, the set-up is too easy to enjoy it too much, players won’t miss many greens, and, as Adam Long said, “you can make a lot of putts because these greens on all three courses are just perfect. So you can make them from all over.”

The front of the market is classier than normally found here, but with the combined price of the top eight, we are asked to take around 4-6 that any of those win. Sure, that’s highly likely, but many of that octet have thrown away winning chances over the last few months, and the obvious man to beat, Jon Rahm, threw his hands in the air last year, calling this a less than satisfactory set-up.

In an event that is worth looking at after the cut – the average halfway position of winners over the last five years is 8th – the suggestion is to play a touch lighter than usual, with just two selections in the pre-event market.

Short tracks that reward consistent tee-to-green and putting efforts see me look for ‘The Real JT’ at every opportunity, and at 60/1 I can’t resist putting James Tyree Poston up as the best of the week.

Winner of the 2019 Wyndham Championship in 22-under, from course specialist Webb Simpson, JT confirmed then his love for Bermuda greens, something he had shown when seventh here and sixth at Harbour Town a few months earlier. The Wyndham, incidentally, home to a trio of wins by Davis Love III, a confirmed Pete Dye specialist.

Fast forward to 2022 and, after a solid all-round performance at sub-7000 yard River Highlands, the 29-year-old comfortably won the John Deere Classic, where he again proved too good for some charging rivals, from tee-to-green and on the dancefloor.

Poston’s best form outside of his two wins is at the RBC Heritage at Harbour Town, another specialist Dye/DL3 track, where he has a record of 3/mc/8/6 and where he has ranked in fifth and seventh place for tee-to-green.

After a solid top-10 at the top-class Tour Championship at the end of last season, Poston comes here after a solid run of 21st at the RSM, the same at Kapalua and 20th at last week’s Sony, ranking 6th and 13th for tee-to-green in both of the more suitable, shorter tracks, all of which have Bermuda greens.

Now teetering on the edge of the world’s top 50, Poston probably can not compete on the longer, elite courses. He’ll need to take advantage of ‘his’ tracks, and, with a 7th and 25th already in his locker around here, this event is most definitely one of those.

I’d like to have been with Andrew Putnam, playing excellent golf, making his last 13 cuts, and holding an enviable course record, but at the same price as last week he’s just left out given the tougher opposition. Top that with a tendency to throw away a weekend lead (Barracuda, AT&T and the RSM just a couple of months ago) and I’d rather be with Alex Smalley who has gone the opposite direction, now trading at more than double his price for the Sony just seven days ago.

The 26-year-old Duke graduate played in both the 2019 Arnold Palmer and Walker Cup sides, finishing with a record of three wins from four at each, before gaining his PGA Tour card when recording three top-five finishes and two top-15s on the KFT, eventually finishing 12th on the 2021 KFT finals lists.

Included in his 2021 season was a 14th at Corales, and he showed that to be no fluke when finishing in the top 15 at both Bermuda and Houston, both with similar greens as he will find this week.

2022 was a big year for Smalley, starting with a best-of-Sunday 65 to finish tied runner-up at Corales, finishing in the top six behind Jon Rahm and co in Mexico, 10th at the Scottish Open and 13th at Sedgefield.

Since October, Smalley has made five of seven cuts, highlights being 11th at Bermuda and a pair of top-five finishes at the RSM and Houston, all contributors to the tee-to-green stats that see him rank 1/2/6/11/13 for his ball-striking.

The second-season player was always on the back foot at Waialae last week, finishing the first round way down the pack after the first round. Cross that out and I’m struggling to see why he’s been dismissed by the oddsmakers for his second attempt at a course that found him ranked top-10 off the tee just 12 months ago.

There is a lingering fantasy around Luke List, whose 11th at the long Kapalua course might indicate a solid run this week. Given his first two wins came at Pete Dye related tracks (South Georgia designed by Davis Love, five time champion at Harbour Town) and Sawgrass Valley (the very name giving away its Dye/Bermuda links) he is clearly one to watch, even if he is simply one of the worst putters on tour.

He may be left behind by a few around this putter-heavy track, but he has a best of a 6th place finish in 2016 and a pair of top-22 finishes over the last two seasons. List should only have to flip wedges to many of these greens, and should he simply finish field average in putting as he did when finding over 11 strokes on the field at Torrey Pines (yes, 11 strokes. Plus 11 strokes) he will land a top-20 wager.

Reccomended Bets:

  • J.T Poston WIN/TOP-5
  • Alex Smalley WIN/TOP-10
  • Luke List TOP-20
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