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Opinion & Analysis

Fantasy Preview: A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier

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A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier (previously known as “The Greenbrier Classic”) is the next stop on the PGA Tour, where the familiar Old White TPC will once again play host to the event in West Virginia. Changes were made to the course after severe flooding damaged the Old White TPC two years ago, which resulted in the cancellation of the event that year. As we saw in 2017, there was very little difference in the way the course played, and it’s still a track where you can expect to see plenty of birdies.

The course measures over 7,200 yards, but due to the altitude, the course plays significantly shorter. Players will often attack the course from the very first shot as the wide fairways result in the attitude being “bombs away” off the tee. As always with par-70 golf courses, par-4 scoring will be necessary, as will Birdie-or-Better Percentage with the winning score usually in the mid-teens at this event. Last year, Xander Schauffele earned his first PGA Tour at The Greenbrier, posting 14-under par to take the title by one stroke over Robert Streb.

Selected Tournament Odds (via Bet365)

  • Tony Finau 12/1
  • Bubba Watson 16/1
  • Phil Mickelson 16/1
  • Webb Simpson 16/1
  • Russell Henley 20/1
  • Xander Schauffele 22/1
  • Joaquin Niemann 28/1

The big names of Bubba Watson and Phil Mickelson are sure to garner a lot of attention this week, but Russell Henley (20/1, DK Price $10,400) has both the current form and course history to upset the two big names this week. Henley has been picking up momentum lately and has made his last four cuts on Tour, the last of which saw him finish T6 at the Travelers Championship. Over his last 12 rounds, he sits 10th in Strokes Gained-Approaching the Green, 19th for Ball Striking and third for Strokes Gained-Total. His short game has been very steady, too, and he ranks 31st for Strokes Gained-Short Game over the same stretch.

Ultimately, this is a week where you will have to chase birdies, and this is where I like Henley’s chances this week. Over his last 12 rounds, Henley sits sixth in this field for Birdie-or-Better Percentage and eighth in the field for Strokes Gained on Par 4’s over his previous eight rounds. Henley also sits first in the field for Bogey Avoidance in his last three events, which is always a positive. He has a high price tag, but considering that he has already proved how much he loves Old White TPC in the past with two consecutive top-5 finishes here, Henley looks sure to feature again in West Virginia.

He’s made 12 out of 14 cuts this year, but there’s a sense that 2018 has been a very frustrating year thus far for Keegan Bradley (55/1, DK Price $8,500). The American has just two top-20 finishes despite hitting the ball as well as anyone in 2018. But this is a week where Bradley can make hay, as his ball striking is currently peaking. In his last three events, Bradley has gained an impressive 16.8 strokes for his approach play, and over his previous 24 rounds, he ranks first for Strokes Gained-Approaching the Green, 10th for Ball Striking and 23rd for Strokes Gained-Total.

His putting continues to hurt him, but his long game is in such good shape that even disastrous putting is not preventing him from missing cuts. Bradley needs one half-decent week on the greens to be in contention. He has never missed the cut at The Old White TPC, with a best finish of T4 back in 2014. For DraftKings lineups, Bradley is as solid a choice as any with the average-priced salary and the excellent efficiency he has displayed at making cuts this year.

A man that looks severely undervalued this week is C.T. Pan (80/1, DK Price $7,300), who will cost just $7,300 here. Pan has made six of his last seven cuts on Tour, and he’s also been taking advantage of playing the weekend at these events. In three of his previous four starts, Pan has finished inside the top-20, and his game is currently trending in the right direction. Pan sits in the top third of this field in all significant Strokes Gained categories over his last 12 rounds and is ranked 16th for Strokes Gained-Total in the same period. Pan ranks seventh over his previous 12 rounds for Birdie Percentage and looks to offer tremendous value this week at a reasonable price tag.

Recommended Plays

  • Russell Henley 20/1, DK Price $10,400
  • Keegan Bradley 55/1, DK Price $8,500
  • C.T. Pan 80/1, DK Price $7,300
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Gianni is the Managing Editor at GolfWRX. He can be contacted at [email protected]

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Roger D.

    Jul 5, 2018 at 12:45 pm

    2,000 feet above sea level? What elevation? Hays, Kansas is the same elevation.

  2. Jamie

    Jul 5, 2018 at 12:20 pm

    That’s the name of the tournament now? Honestly? A tribute to banker/politician cannon fodder?

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Opinion & Analysis

GolfWRX Book Review: Phil by Alan Shipnuck

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The most awaited golf book of 2022 is titled “Phil: the Rip-Roaring (and Unauthorized) Biography of Golf’s most Colorful Superstar,” featuring a look at Phil Mickelson’s life and times. Alan Shipnuck, long a respected writer in the golf interweb, has produced another long-form contribution to the vast library of golf tomes. Early leaks did nothing but heighten the anticipation of the residents of golfdom for the book’s release. Shipnuck wrote for GOLF Magazine for years, before heading out with other proven and decorated scribes to form The Fire Pit Collective. His place at GM reveals how he was able to get close to Mickelson and his inner circle. Before we continue on with the book review, it’s important to determine how Shipnuck and I have a cosmic bond. It is summed up in two words.

Bob Heppel

Bob Heppel was the guy who stood me up in the fifth grade, swim locker room. I swung and bloodied his nose. I was more stunned than he was, but I retired as a fighter with a debatable record of 1-o. Alan Shipnuck tells a similar story in the introduction to his most recent literary effort. No kindred-spirits malarkey here; the type of coincidence that the cosmos allow on occasion.

How does the book read? Well, it has an element of stream of consciousness, combined with a heavy reliance on anecdotal sequencing. It is necessary to stack story after story, to connect the dots of a sometimes-indecipherable image. That’s Phil, to a T (or a P.)

Back to me for a moment. I received the digital copy of the volume about three weeks before the release date of the paper edition. On Friday the 13th, I finally opened the PDF. As I held the PgDn button on my laptop, stopping intermittently to catch up, a random turn of phrase caught my attention:

a man’s man with big calloused hands and the briny demeanor that came from having been at sea for weeks at a time. 

It takes a special awareness of how language intersects with life to string words like that together. Those words describe one of Phil Mickelson’s grandfathers. Shipnuck gives us so much information on Phil’s ancestor that we forget for a moment, that this is a book about Phil. This is a good thing, because we need to learn about the others that helped to forge the Phil Mickelson from whom we cannot avert our eyes.

The chapter in the book that will most ally you as a Mickelson sympathizer is, predictably, the one about Winged Foot and the 2006 USGA Open. The one that will most distance you from Lefty, is the one that begins around page 150, concerning his gambling habits. The section that will have you question golf administrators in general is the one about the 2014 Ryder Cup. In other words, there are a lot of chapters that expect the reader to suddenly jump up and scream at anyone who will listen, You won’t believe this, but …

At times throughout the reading of this book, you feel like a student in a statistics class. The author presents anecdotal evidence in tens and twenties, and you try to determine if Phil Mickelson is enviable or pitiable; sincere or counterfeit; ultimately, good or bad. And then, Shipnuck delivers a knockout punch in which he melds the detached storyline of wealthy professional golfers with the reality in which the rest of us live. Shipnuck resists the temptation to offer too many of these body blows; the book is, after all, about Phil Mickelson.

At about the midway point of the book, it is revealed that Mickelson might have something of a James Bond complex, a need to put himself at greater risk than before, to determine if he can handle the pressure. This notion explains a purported interest in gambling, or a suggested enthusiasm for abandoning the US PGA tour in favor of mideast money; the latter would be the straw that broke the back of Mickelson’s most loyal sponsors.

Without giving too much away, nor attempting to drive the reader toward any sort of conclusion (which would probably have been impossible, in hindsight) there are two, late-volume sequences that lead us toward an understanding of Phil Mickelson and of Alan Shipnuck’s intent:

even Mickelson’s failings feed his image as an uninhibited thrill-seeker

This is the image that he has cultivated over the course of a lifetime. It is the gift that his parents and his grandparents bequeathed to him.

In his public statement, Mickelson allowed that his comments were “reckless” but couldn’t resist making himself both the victim and the hero of his narrative …

This statement reveals the cleverness of Shipnuck’s efforts. He allows the readers to determine which one Mickelson is. My guess is that the readership will be split down the middle. As if I needed to tell you, go buy this book. You’ll enjoy revisiting the glory days of the southpaw, but be warned: you won’t feel the same about him when you turn the final page.

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Opinion & Analysis

Viktor Hovland can dominate if he addresses this key weakness…and it’s not his chipping

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Ahead of the 2022 PGA Championship at Southern Hills, the expectations for star Viktor Hovland are sky high. Hovland is a native of Oslo, Norway but played his college golf at Oklahoma State University before turning professional in 2019.

During Hovland’s time as an amateur, he won the 2018 U.S. Amateur and earned invitations to the Masters, U.S. Open and The Open the following year. He became the first player to win low amateur honors at both the Masters and U.S. Open in the same season since 1998.

As if expectations for the 24-year-old weren’t already lofty enough, he is now returning to Tulsa, Oklahoma, as one of the favorites in a major championship in the state that he played college golf.

There is an argument to be made that Viktor Hovland is the most talented golfer on the PGA Tour. Since he arrived on the scene in 2019, the young phenom has dazzled the golf world with his tee to green excellence. He’s also become a fan favorite due to his abundance of charisma and infectious smile.

Hovland’s career thus far cannot be categorized as a disappointment. He has three regular PGA Tour victories: one at an alternate field event in Puerto Rico, and two at the Mayakoba Golf Classic. He also became the first Norwegian to win on the European Tour (Now DP World Tour) when he won the BMW International Open in June of 2021.

Despite the relative success, it would be hard to argue with the fact that something is missing.

In terms of skill set, one of the most accurate comparisons for Hovland is Rory McIlroy. By the age of 25, McIlroy had four major championships. It would be unfair to compare Hovland to McIlroy in terms of career trajectory, but I find it reasonable to expect more out of him.

Hovland will also draw many comparisons to Collin Morikawa. For better or worse, Viktor Hovland will always be mentioned in the same breath as Morikawa due to the fact that both golfers arrived on Tour at the same time, are within a year of each other in age and rank in the top five in the world.

For all of their similarities, Hovland and Morikawa are in many ways polar opposites. Hovland is a flashy, big hitting, birdie maker. Morikawa is steady, sharp, and has what I believe to be the highest golf IQ since Tiger Woods.

The Norwegian is every bit as talented as his friend and rival, but Morikawa has five PGA Tour victories, including two major championships and a World Golf Championship victory. Hovland is still searching for his first win in a marquee event.

Much has been made in recent months about Viktor Hovland’s troubles around the green. The 24-year-old has lost an average of 1.0 stroke to the field in his career in Strokes Gained: Around the Green. Hovland will be the first to tell you that he has a major weakness in his short game.

“I just suck at chipping,” The Norwegian said after his first career victory at the Puerto Rico Open in February of 2020.

While his chipping undoubtedly needs improvement, it is not his fatal flaw. Poor course management is.

Thus far, course management has been the most consequential detractor to Hovland’s career.

There have been numerous instances where Hovland has had a chance to win or at the very least contend at a tournament that would qualify as a “signature win” on Tour for Hovland. Yes, his short game has been a hindrance, but his poor course management has been a non-negotiable disqualifier.

There are countless examples of this, but in particular, three of them stuck out to me.

Back in February of 2021, Hovland was in the midst of a spectacular second round at the WGC-Concession in Bradenton, Florida. He had seven birdies and no bogeys and found himself two shots back of the lead with one hole to play.

Then disaster struck.

After driving it into the fairway bunker, Viktor put his second over the green and into the palmetto bushes. Instead of taking an unplayable and trying to get up and down for bogey from a decent lie, he decided to try and punch it out of the bush.

After his failed punch out left him in a terrible spot in the greenside bunker, he put his next shot right back into the palmetto bush where he started. He continued to mangle the 18th hole until he finally made his quadruple bogey-8. He went from two back of the lead and possibly in the final pairing to six back of the lead with a slim to none chance of contending.

There’s that infectious smile again.

Back in March, Hovland once again found himself in contention on Sunday with a chance to win the most meaningful victory of his career at The Arnold Palmer Invitational. As he approached the par-3 17th, he was tied for the lead with Scottie Scheffler at -5. The conditions in the final round were very challenging, and the obvious play was to the middle of the green to try and make par. Instead, Hovland went for the pin and came up short, leaving himself a short-sided bunker shot. He went on to make bogey. Scheffler played it to the middle of the green and two-putt for an easy par and went on to win the tournament by one stroke.

Hovland’s course management issues continued to plague him in the first round of The Masters Tournament. After ten holes, he was -1 for his round and three shots off of the lead as he headed to back nine with some birdie holes in front of him. That’s when the lack of proper course management hurt Viktor once again.

The 11th hole at Augusta National is notoriously difficult, and even more so this year as it was lengthened by fifteen yards. With very few exceptions, the entire field played the approach shot into 11 short, not daring to go over the penalty area left with such a long iron shot coming in. At the time, there was only one birdie on the hole all day.

After a beautiful tee shot, Hovland had 221 yards into the green. Inexplicably, he decided once again to attack a pin that he had no business trying to take on. In the late part of the afternoon, there had only been one birdie made there all day, and it was a 35 foot putt. Predictably, his approach shot was left of the target and splashed in the penalty area. After grinding out a very good front nine, he made a double bogey-6 on the hole. As has happened so many times in the past, his poor decision making cost him precious strokes in an event where he can’t afford to give them away.

Hovland has had a good start to his career, but with generational talent comes lofty expectations. He has plenty of time to redirect his career trajectory and accomplish all of the feats his talent should all him to, but first he must address his fatal flaw.

The PGA Championship at Southern Hills would be a good place to start.

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Podcasts

TG2: Max Homa talks about his club changes, JT’s new putter, Jason Day’s WITB

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This week we have a great interview with Max Homa on some recent club changes. Max seems to love gear and is one of the nicest guys in golf. Justin Thomas has a new putter in the bag and we go through Jason Day’s interesting WITB. A few other equipment news stories from the AT&T this week.

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