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An in-depth talk: Golf course architect Brandon Johnson

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If you’ve followed my GolfWRX career arc, you know that I’m a fan of golf course architecture. I’ve had the opportunity to interview Bill Coore and Tom Doak, discuss course strategy with Scott Witter, Chris Wilczynski, Keith Rhebb and others. Each one is a unique talent, and has left a decided and positive mark on the game of golf on planet Earth. However, this is the first opportunity that I have had to interview a one-of-a-kind golf course architect. I won’t say any more about why he is one of a kind; you’ll soon figure it out. Brandon Johnson currently works in the employ of the Arnold Palmer Design Company. Without any delay, enjoy nine questions with Mr. Johnson.

Castle Stuart new course architects Brandon Johnson (Glasses) and Thad Leyton.

1. Tell us a bit about yourself, and how golf came to be a part of your life.

BJ: I’m the son of an electrical engineer and school teacher, little brother to my sister, a devoted husband, a father of two wonderful kids, a special needs cat and someone who loves all kinds of good cuisine.

Music has always been a central part of my life. My dad played several instruments plus joined The Spiritual Renaissance Choir later in his life, my mom played the piano and has a beautiful voice, and my sister played the cello. My first desire was to play the saxophone like my Dad but when the saxophone section was full by registration time I decided to follow in my sister’s footsteps and play the cello.

The cello was my primary instrument as I played in organized orchestras from grade school through graduate studies and received a minor in music at NCSU along the way.  My parents arranged piano lessons for several years, enjoyed the instrument and wish to this day I had continued. One reason had to be my fascination with the drums. During my 9th-10th grade years I began playing the drums and joined two local neighborhood garage bands. Fun times!! As an adult I’ve enjoyed my struggle to learn how to play the acoustic guitar.

Playing and competing in sports has always been a hobby. Before golf started to consume all my attention playing organized soccer, baseball, or pickup basketball with friends in the neighborhood kept me active.

Golf became my main focus when I was 12. One summer day my friend invited me to play. We went to the now extinct Sharon Golf Club, paid our three dollar greens fee and dribbled the ball on the hard pan fairways all day. My fascination, intrigue and love for the game grew instantly and I proceeded to fill my summers, weekends and time after school at the golf course.

2. At what point in your life did you determine that golf course architecture was more than an interest?

BJ: Shortly after taking up the game, I developed a strong interest in seeing and learning about different courses. Playing and trying to get better was still the primary focus, and would be for several more years, but the seed had been planted. Like a lot of kids who played, my childhood dream was to become a PGA Tour professional. I missed that and being a rock star drummer by a mile!

Sketching and drawing was a hobby growing up and I owe that introduction and inspiration to my older sister who is the true artistic talent in the family. My sketch subjects were objects and themes I found interesting. Soon those drawings of still life scenes, cars, pretend inventions and cartoon figures, turned into golf holes from the coffee table book “Golf Courses of the PGA Tour” that my parents gave me for Christmas. New golf hole ideas and routings soon followed.

By high school I began to contemplate college options, potential career paths and interesting majors to pursue. Right or wrong, I was counseled to take technical drafting instead of continuing art classes. While not the ideal foundation for an aspiring golf course architect, it confirmed my suspicion that engineering and building architecture was going to be too rigid for me. Drafting class wasn’t a total loss as it was helpful in learning how to draw and read technical plans but more importantly to visualize, in this case objects, in 3D.

My interest in art, nature, architecture and love of golf led me to blindly pursue a degree in Landscape Architecture as a way to become a golf course architect.

In retrospect, I was fortunate to even get into the NC State School of Design. NC State was the only Undergraduate program that incorporated an interview and portfolio of artwork as part of the admissions process. Little did I know, it was a competitive program and they were searching for artistic talent. I cobbled together my sketches from 7th and 8th-grade art class along with one of my sketch routing plans to round out my portfolio of technical drafting drawings. The jury must have seen my love for golf and the excitement in my face when explaining the details of my conceptual routing plan.

Attending NC State would prove to be a wonderful experience and career-defining decision.

3. As you moved toward a career in GCA and design, which architects inspired you?

BJ: In golf course architecture my initial inspiration was sparked from two very different eras, Pete Dye, and later Mike Stranz, being the ultimate modern architects, and Donald Ross coming from golf architectures early defining era.

Seeing the work of Pete Dye on PGA Tour telecasts, mainly TPC Sawgrass and Harbour Town growing up, sparked my interest in golf course design. I used to record the telecasts and replay the pros’ swings in slow motion, or pause certain positions, as a way to learn the golf swing and improve my game. When TPC Sawgrass or Harbour Town was on, I found myself looking at the architecture in the background of those still or slow motion images. What was so striking on the screen was radically different from the courses I had access to. I became hooked, even obsessed with the game, and the architecture that was influencing the shots required to play it. That spark of interest grew and led me to pursue golf course architecture as a career.

I came to know and appreciate the work of Donald Ross through one of his lessor known courses. He is credited with the front nine at Fort Mill Golf Club. (George Cobb designed the back nine) My friends and I first played Fort Mill during a practice round for a junior event named after my first golf pro Walter Renyolds. It was a fun and solid front nine with an efficient route over gentle terrain. Learning to tackle those slick, crowned, and tilted greens under tournament pressure was a daunting task!  We used to play there several times during the summers and also venture out to Lancaster and Chester also credited to Ross.

The work of Mike Stranz has been a huge source of inspiration too. His work stands in a category of its own with how dramatic, fanciful, artistic and daring it is. The visual presentation of his bold sweeping forms, contours and horizon lines, in my opinion, are some of the most memorable “created” holes in golf. His work is more than just optics as they are a blast to play and full of contour, variety and strategic interest.

I first saw Tobacco Road the day after playing Pinehurst #2 for the first time. (Years before the Coore & Crenshaw restoration) The two experiences couldn’t have been more different. I’ve seen several more Stranz original works and look forward to seeing all of them one day soon.

Inspiration can and should be drawn from all kinds of sources. The study of nature and landforms helps to inspire the creation of contours and features that best emulate it. As a student studying Landscape Architecture I was drawn to historic landscapes, gardens and urban city centers. Invaluable design insight and inspiration was gained from personal experiences at all the major English, French, Italian and Spanish landscapes. Even golf architecture’s current natural, links or rugged design vs the manicured or parkland experience can be traced back to identical debates early practitioners had concerning the ideal or preferred English landscape or garden.

Non-golf and non-landscape architecture inspiration helps expand the mind too. The building architect Anton Gaudi is one of my favorites, artists like the Impressionists, Salvador Dali, M.C. Escher, and music from the Baroque Era to the present, in my opinion, are all excellent sources of material to study that sheds light on how other artists use a process, creatively solve problems, and break away from confining historic norms and traditions to push their craft forward and develop new interpretations of their art form.

There is a plethora of interesting golf architecture in the world, old and historic to new and modern. It is important to look back, study and draw inspiration from historic architecture to discover and learn about the architects and courses of the “Golden Age” but that should not be a binding principle. Exploring modern and contemporary golf architecture is equally as important, maybe even more important if golf is to find and develop new horizons.

It is essential to keep looking forward as the game continues to evolve. The “Golden Age” architects defined the architecture of their time, Pete Dye ushered in a new era appropriate for his time and our generation should continue to look forward to discover the appropriate architecture for tomorrow. At some level, it will always be inspired by or in reaction to its history but the players and technology of today are different from the players and technology from 100 years ago. Golf architecture needs to creatively bridge the two eras to progress and I look forward to the fun challenge of developing my unique interpretation.

4. Your first stop was as design coordinator for The First Tee. What did that position include and what projects resulted?

BJ: After completing two internships at the PGA Tour Design Services office and one as a member of the construction crew at TPC Deere Run the position at The First Tee became available. Even though the industry was buzzing no one seemed to be hiring. I knocked on a ton of architect’s doors, made phone calls and sent numerous resumes but never got an answer. This was my only viable professional option to get into golf architecture at the time.

The First Tee was still an unproven and undefined concept when I started but it had the full weight of the industry behind it. My initial role was to serve as a clearinghouse and primary point of contact for TFT Regional Directors, their emerging chapters and the golf industry. It was a wonderful opportunity for me to be housed out of the PGA Tour Design Services office, learn from their staff and process yet be somewhat independent on TFT projects. I traveled the entire country consulting with our chapters and the local officials they were partnering with, evaluating all kinds of potential sites, creating and evaluating budgets, project schedules and anything else associated with setting up projects.  It evolved into a mountain of concept and construction plan production for all these different sites I was visiting. The effort and timeline required to getting a project from its inception to completion is arduous and long. Unfortunately, several really wonderful opportunities were never completed or moved forward after I left.

For 7 years I worked with TFT of Connecticut on multiple sites around Hartford, additional holes at existing courses, short courses, practice facilities, you name it. TFT Connecticut was connected to the PGA Tour event, TPC River Highlands and had plans for a statewide facility. Adjacent to the TPC River Highlands was an old quarry pit and field used for parking. We had some thoughtful and interesting plans to use that space for a facility that simultaneously fixed the inadequate practice facility at the club and other tournament set up issues as part of a joint partnership. Just as my time with TFT was ending the project was finally gaining momentum.

Coincidentally, they eventually completed the project with a former Palmer Design Associate that started with The Tour as I was departing. The driving range portion remained from my efforts but the configuration of the practice holes are different.

There is a similar story with TFT Chattanooga. I must have looked at six or seven sites and produced even more conceptual plans, budgets, schedules with them. We had an interesting brownfield site connected with a new community development project that would have included a wildly natural and fun 9-hole course and short game/short course and practice facility. I’ve always dreamt, even hoped, that one day I’d get a call that the project would move forward. It had the potential to be a model for how golf and great golf course architecture could be the catalyst for responsible environmental remediation, development and become a positive focal point for the community.

Milan Moore with PGA Tour Design completed the practice facility portion of the TFT Pueblo project that occupied a large portion of my time at TFT. I’m not sure if they ever completed the nine-hole course designed to accompany it.

There were tons of other interesting projects and odds and ends. A few projects of note did come to fruition. One larger project that I worked on was the Thunderbirds Golf Course, later renamed Vistal in Phoenix, Arizona. We completely redesigned an existing 18-hole course. Sadly, it no longer exists. The renovation of the municipal golf course El Rio Alvarez in Tucson, Arizona was another fun and successful project. Ken Kavanaugh and I worked together on revitalizing that local gem. I did some master planning and consulting for the City Courses in Shreveport, Louisiana and oversaw an extremely low budget greens project at Querbes. The additional master plan work on the other course(s) showed promise but they never materialized past the concept stage.

5. You made the move from TFT to Palmer Design. What compelled that decision?

BJ: Personally it was a very difficult decision to make because I really loved working for The First Tee, working with and learning from some of the most knowledgeable, passionate, and kind-hearted individuals I know who dedicated their lives to making golf a more accessible game.

We had a special group back then and I’m proud to have contributed to the cause. The bonus was developing so many wonderful friendships along the way, friendships that will last a lifetime.

The First Tee was growing rapidly and evolving in those early years. What was once a facility-based effort was now changing as the Life Skills programming was becoming the focus and backbone of the organization. Professionally, I had a once in a lifetime opportunity. One, to work for and directly with Arnold Palmer, a man I respected and admired and two, to grow as a designer/architect while also contributing to the company and its forward evolution by sharing my own thoughts, ideas and experiences.  There are not too many opportunities in this industry so, when Thad Layton informed me the company was moving to Orlando from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL and there might be an opening, I knew I needed to investigate the opening door.

Oddly enough a lot of the tradition-breaking proposals and designs we are seeing today that receive so much praise and attention, short courses, alternate route configurations, non 9 or 18 configurations, duel use spaces between practice holes/short game areas/driving ranges, putting courses and proper forward tee options, were all ideas and concepts TFT and its chapters were advocating for in its facility-based models. We received some resistance to these ideas. Some didn’t think it was “real golf”, others could not find a way to make the operations and economics work. I’m glad to see the public and industry embrace them more today. We have some fun and exciting plans in the hopper that would add to the conversation when the projects more forward.

6. How long have you been with Palmer design, and to which projects have you contributed most?

BJ: I started in August of 2006 so it will be 14 years in just under a month. Below is a selected short list of projects:

-NCSU – Lonnie Poole Golf Course (my Alma mater…Go Pack!)

-Pure Scene – Kunming China

-Bay Hill Renovation (It was a team effort but Thad and I took the lead)

-Wexford Renovation

-Spring Island – Old Tabby Links Renovation

-PGA National – Palmer Course Renovation (2007 and 2018)

-Lakewood National (Commander and Piper Courses)

7. Which have been your favorite holes, or parts of holes, that hold your signature?

BJ: I’m glad you didn’t restrict me to just one favorite course, hole or feature! It’s nearly an impossible task to distill the canon of interesting architecture and features down to “one” favorite.

It is even challenging to compile a complete list of favorites as something you, or others, find worthy of inclusion will invariably be left out.

I recently wrote an article for the July 2020 issue of Golf Architecture Magazine about a select few of my “Favorite Features” that I’ve studied and experienced over the years. One or two of them might not be typical or obvious while others should have wide consensus.

Having a “signature” might not be accurate but there are strategic principles that form and guide my thinking and thoughts or ideas I enjoy discovering on properties or incorporating into holes. Below is a short sample:

-“Meaningful Width”

– Greens and green sites that use angle, contour and a variety of pin locations that influence tee shot and approach shot decision making

-Contending with obscured or blind approach shots. Especially when they are the consequence of avoiding challenging the ideal line due to a well-placed hazard or feature.

– Contours the feed, collect and shed the ball

Favorite Holes

#8 Wexford – It is one of the shorter Par 5 holes at Wexford. The majority of players should be able to get close to the green in two and those with slightly above average length should experience a high rate of success going for the green in two, especially when the course is playing firm and fast.

I’ve always been drawn to this hole for its simplicity and how subtle and nuanced the strategic requests are yet how important it is to recognize those clues, plan, and position shots accordingly or deal with the potentially disastrous ramifications of being out of position.

The foundation of my changes during the 2011 renovation were simple. Nudge the green slightly to the right, eliminate the large, flat fairway bunkers that only gobbled errant shots, and convert that space to fairway. These simple moves now incorporated an existing stand of tall pine trees found just beyond the landing area on the right and injected layers of strategy the previous version lacked.

A small singular bunker signifies the ideal line down the left side of the fairway. This opens up the best view and angle to challenge the three center line cross bunkers for your lay up or attempt to reach the green in two. Tee shots that drift too far right risk being partially blocked out by the trees or having to negotiate over hanging limbs to get back into position.

The small square shaped green, with an elevated front left pin nestled against a front left bunker is gently pitched going away from the player. A medium depth swale fronts the right portion of the green. A counter intuitive leave long will avoid tricky recovery situations and allow the player to use contour to their advantage.  The same contour that defends the aggressive play in two or the deft pitch after a lay-up.

#12 Pure Scene

Working in China was fun, interesting, challenging and one of the most enlightening experiences in my professional career. There is a long back story to completing the course and this hole, one that I won’t expand upon here. After a frantic call from our client explaining how new government regulations would drastically change our routing during the middle of construction and that we needed to be on site in two days, we found this hole.

A short to mid length Par 3 with the beautiful Lake Dianchi in the background. I like how the back left pin location just dangles on the cliff edge.

 #15 Pure Scene

 Another hole with a long back story resulting from a different set of circumstances that forced us to depart from our original routing.

This short drivable par 4 has a massive and inviting fairway with a green at the final destination that ranks as one of the smallest I’ve ever built. (#9 at Wexford is another contender) The narrow sliver of green sits on the edge of the hill/cliff side with an infinity view to the country side beyond. The prevailing wind will play a factor here assisting tee shots down the right side for the better angle while also bringing the far cliff edge into play. Contours allow tee shots to drift farther off line long and/or left resulting in short, down prevailing wind pitches to a very narrow and shallow green. Long left approach and recovery shots to a back pin must navigate confounding contours. Bold and smart plays will lead to success here.

 #11 Old Tabby Links

We altered this hole the most during our 2012 renovation of Spring Island – Old Tabby Links.

This hole provides the membership with variety and choice. We kept the left and right tee options but made sure they looked and played different. We retained the original yardages on the left tee complex and shortened/converted play from the right tee angle into a drivable Par 4. Width, centerline bunkers, obscured views from select angles, and pin locations that bring different contours or features into play depending on the angle of approach make this hole interesting and fun to play.

Favorite Features or parts of a hole

#4 NCSU – Lonnie Poole Golf Course – We found and utilized the natural ground contour as the main strategic feature of the hole. One can ride the ridge, past the left cross bunker onto the green with a well-placed shot or have that same ridge shed balls further left behind the bunker or right into a swale leaving a tricky angled pitch.

#5 NCSU – Lonnie Poole Golf Course –  The combination of utilizing the bold, natural rolling terrain, protruding right tree line and extended fairway cut to the far right and left extremes creates, in my opinion, a fun tee shot where local knowledge is key. (The original fairway line extended farther right then the one they mow currently) One can be lulled to sleep here thinking there is gracious space at the landing area but favoring the left half with a well-positioned ball, or blowing it over and/or past the tree line if you’re long enough, are the best plays.

#5 Lakewood National-Commander Course (Back Right Pin and Green surround) – The main defending feature of the green and complex is the back right, thimble sized, dome with a devilish pin location on top. No bunkers guard this green, just the long pond down the left side of a fairway that is plenty generous for one to confidently avoid a watery disaster. A ridge tumbles down beyond a diagonal cross bunker on the right, approximately 85 yards out, providing a safe and effective way to avoid the lake while still accessing the green and front pin locations. The fun, challenge and decision making begins when that feeding ridge is over played and balls funnel down behind this back dome.

During the Korn Ferry Suncoast LECOM Classic a Feb 16, 2019 tweet on my account and Thad Layton’s, my design partner, shows the dilemma of being on the wrong side of this contour. What the video does not show is 1) His playing partner, who was in the exact same spot, successfully nestle his recovery next to the hole for a birdie. 2) The mental deliberation both players went through to try and figure out the best play.

Position is key as I’ve utilized this dome contour from a different angle to escape being out of position on the lake bank and feed a ball down to the back left pin next to the water.

8. Describe for us the perfect place to build a golf course. 

BJ: First, I know some stunning sites in the U.S. and in different locations around the globe that we believe would be perfect or “ideal” ground for golf. They just need the right partners, organization and/or investments. As an architect always in search of ideal projects to devote all our time towards and channel our passion and creativity into, I’d be missing an opportunity if I didn’t float those opportunities into the universe!

The first instinctive thought, and where the majority of golf architecture might fall back on, are origins in wind swept, sandy dunescapes with wispy fescue and marram grasses blanketing rumpled and wrinkled terrain that’s been perfectly sculpted over decades by nature’s masterful touch. It is hard to find fault with this setting.

Adding a raucous ocean battering a shoreline of both rocky cliff edge and sandy dunes to anchor the site and serve a dual role as the ultimate hazard and sublime vista only makes it better.

Ideally, the accompanying landscape palette would be native yet unique. A palette so full and rich with variety that evolves across the site. The routing would take you on an exploratory journey of the sites highlight reel, incredible views overlooking the most majestic, distant and unspoiled landscapes, intimate and cozy outdoor rooms whose features almost engulf you and then burst into another stunning landscape.

There are other factors to consider though.  Climate – my preference would be a location with majority days of sunshine, warm, but not too hot. Certainly not muggy or humid. Mild to cool mornings that warm up to comfortable temperatures where shorts or lose long pants are comfortable. (68F – 78F) Perhaps a bit of breeze that, depending on the season or global weather patterns, doesn’t produce a predictable prevailing wind.

Taking your question a little further into a dream scenario, a place where the summer solstice was the norm and not a one-day a year occurrence would be perfect! This would allow for the maximum number of rounds to be played. Players could structure days to take advantage of the daylight, play nine before the work day starts and nine or 18 in that wonderful glow of evening light.

The added bonus of no flies, mosquitos, no-see-ums or other tiny biting insects that cause distress would really make it perfect! Do you know such a place?

One of the reasons I believe golf is the ultimate game and chess match is that our field of play is constantly changing. Chess is a wonderful cerebral game filled with an infinite number of combinations and strategies, but the board and pieces remain the same. The natural ground upon which we play and compete in golf embodies so much variety and character. Ever changing weather conditions play a pivotal role in every golf round thus making the physical, mental and strategic requests that much more complex. Exceptional golf architecture, and how it interprets the varied ground upon which it rests, is a beautiful process and one that creates several versions of the “perfect” location. Inspired architecture on stunning foothill terrain with wildflower fields and snow-capped mountain backdrops on glacier formed contours (with cool water running over smooth pebbles in a creek bed) can be every bit has beautiful and captivating as architecture on a course intertwined in the rugged desert landscape or the traditional ideal seaside links course with massive dunes, marram grass and fescue waving in the breeze.

As an architect I love being inspired by the site and the challenge of finding and unlocking golf holes on that precious land and interpreting how ideal golf could be played over it in new fresh forms.

      

9. What question have we not asked, that you wish we had? Ask it and answer it, please.

BJ: A few years ago, Digital Links Magazine asked, “As an African-American, have you ever experienced any difficulties working in the golf industry?” An appropriate question three years ago and perhaps even more timely in today’s social and cultural climate. While I appreciated the question, and that someone generally cared about my experience, I also struggled with the question. It was a short answer interview format, this was the first time any writer or journalist asked me such a question, so I wrestled to answer this question that needed a more robust and contextualized conversation surrounding it.

I won’t expand upon that original answer here, nor ask another question, but I will use it has reference and context for a broader statement because the greater, more contextualized conversation goes far beyond my personal experiences.

 “There were many pioneers in golf’s history who blazed trails, broke down cruel access barriers and endured tremendous hardships to play and enjoy the game they loved as equals to everyone in society. Golf owes them a huge debt of gratitude. Everyone has to overcome obstacles and blockades in life, I’ve had my fair share, but because of those heroic efforts my personal experience and exposure to the game was much different than theirs. I’m fortunate to have had so many generous people help, support, encourage and guide me from day one to the present. Any success I’ve experienced can be attributed to their helping hands.

While our society has evolved we must still recognize that we are not perfect and this wonderful game of golf that we love and are so passionate about, can and should, be more inclusive and representative of the world’s rich and diverse cultural, ethnic, racial and gender makeup.

I hope to help make this a reality.”

As you reached out to me to participate in this interview our nation, and eventually the greater international community, was engulfed in the raw, emotional reaction to the brutal and unnecessary death of George Floyd. The country was just beginning to tear off the final scabs of racial injustice and inequity wounds that have festered below the surface and plagued our countries history for too many generations.

This event sparked an unprecedented national conversation and collective grappling with our countries historical and current understanding of how race, racism and racial inequity continues to influence and shape every sector of our society. A modern realization that the racial, ethnic, cultural, religious and socio-economic divide still exists and is wider than most believed, experienced or cared to realize until now. This is a hard truth and reality to resolve but one we must all face in order to move forward, together, and forge a new history that will be unburdened by its past.

The game of golf is beautiful. The game of golf is elegant. The game of golf is a connector. Wonderful friendships and experiences that cross racial, ethnic and cultural lines are formed and nurtured through participation in the game. There is nothing wrong with the game of golf. Unfortunately, the history of golf and its governance, is as equally entangled with the racial inequity and injustices of its time as the rest of our nation.

Yes, golf and its governing bodies have eliminated the nonsensical segregation rules and clauses that once wrongfully guided our pure game. That was an obvious and easy first step but not one that crumbled the foundation behind those practices or eliminated the impacts that years of inequitable treatment caused. Unfortunately, the continued government, management, operation and economics that structure our great game continue to be tainted by its history of racial, ethnic, religious and gender exclusion practices whose remnants still remain embedded within despite recent efforts to change.

Golf needs to fully reconcile its history of racial exclusion and reluctance to evolve in a multi-cultural society. Only then can we fully understand how the residue of past laws, practices and social, cultural and economic biases continue to stifle meaningful forward progress. When this occurs golf will be freed to move forward and thrive like never before.

I encourage the greater golf community, public golf and private member participants, elite players to the long handicap, and industry leaders to the wider golf market to help transform this game we all claim to love so dearly, into a welcoming, inclusive, vibrant game that is rich with the diversity and talent of our world. A game and structuring industry that supports golf and leads society to be a better version of itself.

Is this too much to ask of a game? A sport? NO. Not a sport as beautiful as golf. Not a sport whose participants extol the virtues of sportsmanship, integrity, honesty and personal enforcement of competitive rules. It is not too much to ask of a sport that raises BILLIONS of charitable dollars for communities and causes around the globe. It is time for the collective golf community to demonstrate how, through sport and the life long bonds created from it, will play a vital role in eradicating systemic racism and lead change towards a peaceful, diverse and inclusive society.

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Ronald Montesano writes for GolfWRX.com from western New York. He dabbles in coaching golf and teaching Spanish, in addition to scribbling columns on all aspects of golf, from apparel to architecture, from equipment to travel. Follow Ronald on Twitter at @buffalogolfer.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. CP

    Jul 19, 2020 at 3:07 pm

    Great interview! Johnson answers are so thoughtful and genuine. It would be nice to see pictures of each of the holes he talks about so we could see the features he mentions.

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Courses

Open Championship courses you can play (and when the best time to book is)

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The final major of 2024 is nearly here as the top golfers head to Scotland’s southwestern coast to battle for the claret jug at Royal Troon. Golf’s original major dates all the way back to 1860 and has been played at 14 different courses throughout the United Kingdom (yes, this includes Northern Ireland) providing countless memories including celebrations, heartbreak, and unique moments that will never be forgotten (looking at you Jordan Spieth).

With The Open teeing off less than a week from now, we wanted to highlight some of The Open Championship’s finest links courses that should play when you make the journey to golf’s homeland:

Old Course at St. Andrews 

Do we even need to say anything else? The “Home of Golf”, host of 30 Open Championships, the most coveted tee time in the WORLD, there are a million reasons to have St. Andrews on your links golf bucket list. From the double greens, to the tee shot over the Old Course Hotel, to the walk up 18th fairway with the town buildings framing a picturesque scene (especially at dusk), every golfer should make the voyage to St Andrews at least once in their life.

Carnoustie 

Carnoustie – Championship Course

Roughly 25 miles north of St. Andrews lies the devious links of Carnoustie, often recognized by the large white Carnoustie Golf Hotel as the backdrop of the 18th green. While the course has only hosted The Open 8 times, it is considered to be one of the hardest layouts in The Open rota (just ask Jean Van de Velde) although not that long, playing just under 7000 yards from the tips. 

Muirfield 

Located right next to this week’s host of Scottish Open (The Renaissance Club), this fantastic links layout has hosted the prestigious Championship 16 times since 1892. The narrow fairways and penal rough requires precise shots off the tee while avoiding the devious pot bunkers is a must. The course is set away from the coastline so you won’t get the sweeping ocean views, but a round at Muirfield is one the premier tee times in all of Scotland (so make sure you book early – 12-18 months at least).

Royal Portrush 

A view of the new 572 yards par 5, seventh hole designed by Martin Ebert on the Dunluce Course at Royal Portrush Golf Club the host club for the 2019 Open Championship in Portrush, Northern Ireland. © 2018 Rob Durston

Our next stop brings us across the Irish Sea to the northern coast of Northern Ireland and the popular Royal Portrush. Having hosted The Open only twice in its illustrious history, Royal Portrush is a golfer’s dream with 36 holes of pure links golf set against a gorgeous backdrop of the ocean and cliffs. The Open Championship will return to Portrush in 2025 and YOU CAN BE THERE to watch it all in person! 

Royal Troon 

TROON – JULY 26: General view of the ‘Postage Stamp’ par 3, 8th hole taken during a photoshoot held on July 26, 2003 at the Royal Troon Golf Club, venue for the 2004 Open Championships, in Troon, Scotland. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)

The host of this year’s Open Championship, Royal Troon is home to one of the best par-3 holes in all of golf, “The Postage Stamp.” A downhill 125-yard tee shot to a minuscule green surrounded by bunkers on all sides makes it one of the more challenging holes. Another hole that adds to the challenge is the 601-yard par 5 that used to be the longest golf hole in Open Championship history. This year will be the 10th Open Championship held at Royal Troon, the first since 2016 when Mickelson and Stenson had a battle for the ages in the final round.

Royal Birkdale 

For the next course on the list, we have to head down to the northwest coast of England just outside of Liverpool. Consistently ranked in the Top 10 courses in all the UK, this 10-time host of The Open has hosted many other prestigious events such as Ryder Cups, Women’s Opens, and more! The course is laid out with fairways running through flat-bottomed valleys surrounded by high dunes which provide many blind shots throughout the course. The Open returns to Royal Birkdale in 2026 so it won’t be long before it is back in the spotlight.

Royal St. George’s 

For the final course on our list, we are staying in England, but heading across to the southeastern side of the country to Kent. Royal St. George’s is 4th on the list of most Open Championships hosted with 15 (1 behind Muirfield) the most recent being Collin Morikawa’s victory in 2021. RSG is the only active course on The Open rota in this part of the UK, but two former hosts (Prince’s and Royal Cinque Ports) are within 3 miles of the property. The expansive course is laid out with holes separated by dunes with heavy rough, undulating fairways, and deep pot bunkers to challenge your game. While it may not be mentioned in the discussions of St. Andrews, Carnoustie, and the like, Royal St. George’s is still a Championship layout that is worth the trip across the pond.


With these big-name courses in such high demand, it is important to note that if you want to play them, you need to start planning your trip early. Golfbreaks by PGA TOUR, the world’s #1 rated golf tour operator, suggests planning and booking your trip at least 12-18 months in advance in order to secure a tee time at the courses you want. The UK & Ireland specialists at Golfbreaks by PGA TOUR have the knowledge to help tailor the perfect golf trip for your group so you can play big-name courses and hidden gems you might not have heard of. If you’re ready to start planning your bucket list trip across the pond, make life easier and go with Golfbreaks by PGA TOUR.

Editor’s note: This article is presented in partnership with Golfbreaks. When you make a purchase through links in this article, GolfWRX may earn an affiliate commission.

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Ryder Cup 2025: Crossing to Bethpage – New York State Park golf, Part 1

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The 2025 Ryder Cup matches will be held over the sprawling, bruising, Long Island acreage known as Bethpage Black State Park Golf Course. The course has hosted multiple national championships, most recently the 2019 PGA Championship. In September 2025, Bethpage Black will welcome teams from the USA and Europe to contest the 45th Ryder Cup matches. Team Europe, the defending champions, will be led again by captain Luke Donald. The U.S. PGA has not yet announced the name of its leader, yet all sources and speculations point to a 15-time major champion and an eight-time participant in the biennial event.

Bethpage Black will join Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester (1995) as the second Empire State course to host the event. The Ryder Cup matches were played in the metropolitan New York area once before, in 1935 at the Ridgewood Club, in Paramus, New Jersey. It’s fair to say that metro NYC is due to host this world-stage, golf event. I can’t wait. The USA’s loss to Europe in 2023 adds to the considerable drama.

What makes Bethpage Black an outlier in the world of championship golf, is its mere existence. It’s a state park golf course, one of five on property, each with a colorful name. The Red, Green, Blue, and Yellow join big brother Black as outstanding tests of golf in Farmingdale. Of the five, only the Green was not originally built as a state course. The Lenox Hills Country Club, designed by Devereux Emmet, opened in 1923. By 1932, the club had closed and the land had become property of the state. Its birth date made the Green the oldest of the five courses. New York State began to build on a series of adjacent parcels, guided by the hands of Alber “A.W.” Tillinghast, Joseph Burbeck, and Alfred Tull. The Yellow course, built entirely by Tull, was the last of the five to open.

State park courses just don’t hold major championships. Private clubs and elite resorts are the typical sites that receive the nod from the world’s golf bodies. It’s a testament to the lovers of Bethpage, the New York state government, and the PGA of America (among others) that Bethpage is as good as it is, and that it continues to improve. It’s a fitting site for the 2025 Ryder Cup matches, but the 2025 Ryder Cup matches need a beginning to their story. I’ll do my best to provide it.

The quintet of courses near Bethpage, New York, is just the beginning of the New York state park golf course system. 19 parks in total offer golf from the tip of Long Island, to the shores of Lake Ontario, through the Catskill mountains, to my home town. I’m a Western New York guy. The Buffalo area has been my home for most of my 58 years on the golf ball known as Earth. I live two miles from the westernmost, state park golf course: Beaver Island. The Beav, as everyone calls it, was designed by William Harries. It opened the year I was born, which means that it is close to 60 years old! Unlike the Bethpage property, where topography is king, the Beav is a flat course, albeit full of enough interest to bring you back for more.

As I considered the magnitude of the state park system, I realized that golfers who frequent those 19 state parks can point to their home course and say, “You know, the Ryder Cup will be at a state park course next year.” I started to count on my fingers, the number of state park courses I had played: Beaver Island, Green Lakes (Syracuse), James Baird (Poughkeepsie), and the five at Bethpage, I realized that I had played eight of the 23 total courses, and had visited a mere four of the 19 parks.

Bethpage is the only, multi-course state park across the Empire State. Other venues range from pitch-and-putt, to nine-hole, to regulation 18-hole courses. The majority occupy nice tracts of land, and feature 18 holes of memorable, enjoyable golf. PGA Tour professionals Joey Sindelar and Mike Hulbert grew up on one of those courses, and Dottie Pepper spent a bit of time on another, near her hometown.

There will be many stories that trace the path to Bethpage and its 2025 Ryder Cup, and I look forward to reading and hearing them. This one is my own, and I’m proud (and a little frightened) to undertake it. I’ll visit each of the remaining parks over the next 16 months, and report in with images and words that tell the story of each park and its golf course.

The Ones I’ve Played

The Bethpage Five

As mentioned above, I’ve played eight of the 23 courses, but the majority of that number is owed to a 2011 pilgrimage to Long Island. The Black had just hosted its second US Open championship, and the ink for the 2019 PGA Championship was not yet printed. I spoke with a Bethpage caddy, in anticipation of the trek. I wrote a series of articles on the courses on my own site, BuffaloGolfer. Down the road of this, current series, I’ll discuss the most poignant piece that I connected with Bethpage. That’s a story for another time. After all, Bethpage is a five-course meal.

It’s safe to say the the Bethpage property is unlike any other, municipal, golfing space in the world (at least, those not named the Links Trust of St. Andrews!) The park encompasses nearly 1500 acres of wooded land and offers much beyond golf to its visitors. As pilgrimages go, Bethpage is it. For a New York state resident, on a weekend, it would cost a total of $257 dollars … to play all five courses. Even for those outside the state, the trip to Bethpage is worth consideration. Each course rambles over uneven, heaving land. Holes carry along falloffs and bend unexpectedly around corners. Greens are benched into hillsides and settled into valleys. All five courses remind you of the others, yet none of them says to you “You’ve played this course before.”

James Baird State Park 

One of the hats that I wear, is high school golf coach. Each spring, golfers from my team travel to Poughkeepsie to play the James Baird State Park golf course. Pronounced “Bard,” the course was opened in 1948, after a middle-aged, Robert Trent Jones, senior, put pen to paper to lay out the course. Jones was about to become a household name, as he would offer renovation advice to many of the country’s classic clubs. He was most famously associated with the Oakland Hills Country Club near Detroit, the host site of the 1951 US Open. You know, the one where Ben Hogan purportedly gasped “I’m glad I brought this course, this monster, to its knees.”

Trent didn’t leave a monster in Poughkeepsie. What he left was something that locals call Baby Bethpage. The James Baird course is blessed with topography similar to its five-course cousin, but it offered a challenge that Bethpage does not: a huge expanse of marsh across the belly of the property. There was not going over nor through it, so Jones simply went around it. He created something that he never, ever did: a short par three. Jones was a fan of the brutish, 200-yard plus, all-carry, par three hole. For the third hole at Baird, he had all of 120 yards, and it was downhill! Jones placed a green in the marsh, connected to the mainland by an earthen bridge. He then turned north for a time, then returned south, outside the marsh. Trent Jones had another stretch of tricky land to navigate, this time, on the inward half. He brought a trio of holes (pars 4-3-5) through a challenging corner of the property, before returning to the open meadow that hosts the majority of the layout.

James Baird is a tremendous golf course, one that prepares our high school competitors well for the next step: the state federation championship at, you guessed it, Bethpage Black. Six golfers move on to compete against other, high school divisions, at the big brother of them all.

Green Lakes

The Baird course came to life 13 years after Trent Jones opened his first, New York state parks course. Originally from Rochester, New York, Trent ventured 90 minutes east to Manlius, near Syracuse, in 1935, to lay out one of his first ten courses. RTJ was gifted the magnificent land that abuts the two glacial lakes in central New York. The lakes are meromictic, which we all know means that surface and bottom waters do not mix in the fall and spring, as happens with dimictic lakes.

Trent Jones placed his clubhouse and finishing greens (9 and 18) in an interesting portion of the property. The ninth hole is an uphill, par five that plays fifty yards longer than its measured distance. Once home to upper and lower greens, the lower has been expanded and enhanced, and the upper is now abandoned. On the other side of the clubhouse, the sneaky 18th moves out of a corridor of trees, into the open space beneath the clubhouse. It’s a bit reminiscent of the 18th at Bethpage’s Green course. It’s not a long hole, yet when you walk off with five or six on your card, you wonder where you went astray.

The front half of the course plays along a vast meadow, above Green Lake, the larger of the two, nautical bodies. The inward side forages among the tree above Round Lake, before finally emerging at the home hole. The apparent contrariety of the two nines is resolved through expansion of fairway corridors on the treed nine, and the constriction of playing paths with bunkers and doglegs, on the exposed side.

If you’re a walker, Green Lakes will make you a fit one. It will also demand all the clubs and shots that you can fit in your bag.

Beaver Island

“Tame” isn’t the proper term to describe Beaver Island, the state park course near my home. I believe that “calm” is a better term. It may seem ironic, given that the 1965 course occupies a tract of land at the southern tip of Grand Island, where the Niagara River splits east and west, before reuniting at the north end. When we think of the Niagara, we think of the mighty rapids and cascades near the brink and bottom of the falls. At the southern split of the river, however, you can throw a canoe in the water and have a paddle. Beaver Island knows that it is adjacent to the river, but you never get the sense that this golf course borders water. I’ve redesigned the park hundreds of times in my head, moving the golf course to the banks of the river, where the trails, beach, playground, and other amenities are currently found. In the end, not every great golf course can, nor should, be built.

William Harries trained under the famed competitor and architect, Walter Travis. Despite this exposure to the master, Harries went his own way with his golf courses. The most striking difference is in green construction. While Travis was extraordinarily creative and daring, Harries was the polar opposite. His greens are routinely flat and easy to navigate.

He designed a number in the western New York area, including Brookfield Country Club. Originally known as Meadow Brook, the club hosted the 1948 Western Open, won by the aforementioned, Ben Hogan. The majority of Harries’ work was in municipal courses, and he designed Sheridan Park for the town of Tonawanda. That course hosted the 1962 USGA Public Links championship.

On Grand Island, Harries traced his layout around three ponds. The massive, western one, comes into play on the second through fifth holes. The middle one plays games with the approach to the eighth green. The final one, on the inward side, forces golfers to carry their tee shot over water, to the 14th fairway. Beaver Island bears no resemblance to the topography of the other locales mentioned previously. There is no heaving, no tumbling, no turbulence, along its fairways. Beaver Island is more St. Andrews in its flattish presentation, which makes it an honest, what-you-see, sort of golf course. It’s an enjoyable walk in the park, a not-too-demanding one.

Part Two: south-central New York-Soaring Eagles, Chenango Valley, Indian Hills, and Bonavista

https://www.rydercup.com/ PGA of America Ryder Cup Trophy

Ryder Cup Trophy @ Bethpage – Photo courtesy of PGA of America

 

 

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19th Hole

Vincenzi’s 2024 Travelers Championship betting preview: Patrick Cantlay to continue impressive play

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The third major championship of 2024 did not disappoint as Bryson Dechambeau capped off a sensational week with the second U.S. Open victory of his career. The season rolls along to Cromwell, Connecticut, where TPC River Highlands hosts the 2024 Travelers Championship. This is yet another designated event with a $20 million dollar purse.

TPC River Highlands is a 6,841-yard par-70 that has been a PGA Tour stop for 40 years. Home of the only 58 in Tour history, it is possible to go extremely low at this Pete Dye design. However, TPC River Highlands does feature a difficult closing stretch with holes 16-18 all historically averaging scores over par.

The Travelers Championship will play host to 72 golfers this week. Being a signature event, almost all of the best players on Tour will be teeing it up. 

PGA Tour U winner, Michael Thorbjornsen, will be making his season debut this week at the Travelers. 

Past Winners at The Travelers Championship

  • 2023: Keegan Bradley (-23)
  • 2022: Xander Schauffele (-19)
  • 2021: Harris English (-13)
  • 2020: Dustin Johnson (-19)
  • 2019: Chez Reavie (-17)
  • 2018: Bubba Watson (-17)
  • 2017: Jordan Spieth (-12)
  • 2016: Russell Knox (-14)

Key Stats For TPC River Highlands

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

1. Strokes Gained: Approach

Strokes Gained: Approach sits at the top spot in the stat model this week. The course is relatively short, and golfers with multiple types of skill sets compete here. Iron play is often the great equalizer allowing the shorter hitters to compete, and that should be the case again this week.

SG: Approach Over Past 24 Rounds:

  1. Scottie Scheffler (+1.61)
  2. Corey Conners (+1.11)
  3. Sepp Straka (+0.92)
  4. Xander Schauffele (+0.91)
  5. Tony Finau (+0.88)

2. Par 4 Birdie or Better %

With only two par-5s on the course, the importance of par-4 scoring cannot be understated. Whoever plays the par-4s most effectively this week will put himself in the driver’s seat.

Par 4 Birdie or Better % Over Past 24 Rounds:

  1. Eric Cole (25.4%)
  2. Scottie Scheffler (+24.6%)
  3. Patrick Cantlay (+23.5%)
  4. Rory McIlroy (+22.8%)
  5. Wyndham Clark (+22.7%)

3. Strokes Gained: Ball Striking

Ball striking combines off the tee and approach and will be the stat I use to incorporate off-the-tee play this week. The over-emphasis on approach play will incorporate golfers who give themselves plenty of birdie looks in the event.

SG: Ball Striking past 24 rounds:

  1. Scottie Scheffler (+2.56)
  2. Ludvig Aberg (+1.67)
  3. Xander Schauffele (+1.57)
  4. Rory McIlroy (+1.44)
  5. Corey Conners (+1.31)

4. Course History

Course history has proven to be a major factor at TPC River Highlands. With seven golfers who have multiple wins at the course, familiarity could be the key at the Travelers Championship.

Strokes Gained: Total at TPC River Highlands per round over Past 36 Rounds:

  1. Xander Schauffele (+2.03)
  2. Patrick Cantlay (+2.02)
  3. Brian Harman (+1.98)
  4. Rory McIlroy (+1.97)
  5. Scottie Scheffler (+1.54)

5. Strokes Gained: Total Pete Dye Designs

TPC River Highlands is another prototypical Pete Dye track where many of the same golfers play well consistently.

SG: Pete Dye per round Over Past 36 Rounds:

  1. Scottie Scheffler (+2.49)
  2. Xander Schauffele (+2.22)
  3. Ludvig Aberg (+1.86)
  4. Brian Harman (+1.66)
  5. Patrick Cantlay (+1.61)

6. Strokes Gained: Putting on Bent/POA Mix

TPC River Highlands is another prototypical Pete Dye track where many of the same golfers play well consistently.

Strokes Gained: Putting on Bent/POA Mix Over Past 24 Rounds:

  1. Denny McCarthy (+1.41)
  2. Xander Schauffele (+1.04)
  3. Keegan Bradley (+1.01)
  4. Robert MacIntyre (+0.98)
  5. Wyndham Clark (+0.84)

The Travelers Championship Model Rankings

Below, I’ve compiled overall model rankings using a combination of the five key statistical categories previously discussed — SG: Approach (26%), Par 4 Birdie or Better % (13%), SG: Ball Striking (20%), Course History (13%), SG: Putting Bent/POA (14%) and SG: Pete Dye (14%).

  1. Xander Schauffele
  2. Rory McIlroy
  3. Scottie Scheffler 
  4. Viktor Hovland
  5. Corey Conners
  6. Sahith Theegala
  7. Brian Harman
  8. Keegan Bradley
  9. Collin Morikawa
  10. Tony Finau

2024 Travelers Championship Picks

Patrick Cantlay +2500 (FanDuel)

When a player contends in a major in the previous week, I typically like to fade said player the following week. However, this week feels a bit different to me. Cantlay has been struggling all season, and I can’t help but feel like the former FedEx Cup champion found something during the U.S. Open. I also don’t think he was incredibly disappointed with the result. He played well on Sunday and was impressive over the weekend, finally getting a true feel of what major championship contention felt like. It was all positives for Cantlay at Pinehurst.

Cantlay will now head to a spot where he’s had an incredible amount of success but has not yet notched a victory. In his last six starts at the course, he’s not finished worse than 15th. His best start came last year, where he finished T4. He ranks 1st in the field in Strokes Gained: Total at TPC River Highlands. Cantlay is also a Pete Dye specialist and ranks 4th in the field in Strokes Gained: Total on Dye tracks. The 32-year-old ranks 3rd in Par 4 birdie or better percentage.

Cantlay was spectacular across the board at Pinehurst. For the week, he ranked 3rd in Strokes Gained: Approach, 7th in Strokes Gained: Ball Striking and 10th in Strokes Gained: Putting. I fully expect him to build off of that performance and contend once again at one of his favorite Tour stops.

Sam Burns +3500 (DraftKings)

Sam Burns had a great Sunday at Pinehurst, which is always a bonus heading into the following week. He shot -3 in his final round, which got him into the top ten (T9) in what was a successful major for a player who’s not performed his best in them historically.

Burns is a prolific birdie maker who can win a boat race to -20 as well as anyone on Tour. He’s also had some success at both Pete Dye courses, where he ranks 13th in Strokes Gained: Total over his past 36 rounds, and at TPC River Highlands, where he ranks 12th in Strokes Gained: Total over his past 36 rounds.

Burns has been playing some solid golf of late. He has four top-15 finishes in his past starts including a T13 at the Wells Fargo Championship, 10th at the RBC Canadian Open and 15th at the Memorial Tournament. He has gained strokes on approach and off the tee in five of his past six starts.

The LSU product can win golf tournaments in a variety of ways. His ability to make putts if it turns into a wedge and putting contest makes him a strong candidate to contend this week.

Sahith Theegala +4500 (BetRivers)

Sahith Theegala has been playing some solid golf over the last few months. As we saw last year with Keegan Bradley, a missed cut at the U.S. Open shouldn’t necessarily scare someone off from a player who fits TPC River Highlands, which I believe Theegala does.

TPC River Highlands is the site of Theegala’s near victory a few years back. He finished in a tie for 2nd in 2022 after making double-bogey on the 18th hole with a one-shot lead, losing to Xander Schauffele. Theegala will now head back to the course as a more mature player who is in the midst of the best season of his career.

This season, the former Haskins award winner in having strong finishes in some of the season’s most important events. He finished 5th at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, 6th at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, 9th at the PLAYERS Championship, 2nd at the RBC Heritage and 12th at both the Memorial Tournament and PGA Championship.

In his past 24 rounds, Sahith ranks 12th in Strokes Gained: Approach, 11th in Strokes Gained: Ball Striking, 18th in Par 4 birdie or better percentage and 8th in Strokes Gained: Putting on Bent/POA mixed putting surfaces.

If this turns into another shootout, Theegala has the type of ball striking and putting combination that can win a race to -20.

Sungjae Im +6600 (BetRivers)

After seemingly regaining his form over the past month, Sungjae took a step back at last week’s U.S. Open. The South Korean missed the cut, shooting +10 over his first two rounds. Despite the disappointing result, I don’t believe one poor start at a long and difficult golf course is enough reason to give up on him. 

Although the score was regretful at Pinehurst No. 2, Im hit the ball pretty well from tee to green. In his two rounds, he gained strokes both off the tee and on approach. His downfall was with the putter, which can be extremely hit or miss, especially over the course of this season.

Prior to the U.S. Open, Sungjae had finished in the top ten in three of his previous four starts. He finished T4 at the Wells Fargo “Signature Event” at Quail Hollow, T9 at the Charles Schwab Challenge and T8 at The Memorial Tournament. He’s also gained strokes off the tee in nine straight events.

Im has made three starts at TPC River Highlands, finishing 21st, 58th and 29th respectively. Im hits fairways at a high clip, which will be a massive advantage this week and his lack of driving distance won’t be an issue. He also ranks 12th in the field in his past 24 rounds in Strokes Gained: Total on Pete Dye designs.

It’s been a long time since Im has won an event (2021 Shriners), but I believe he’s back on the upswing and is still a higher end talent on the PGA Tour with another win coming soon.

Tom Kim +6600 (BetRivers)

After a sluggish start to the 2024 season, Tom Kim has come on strong over the past month or so. The South Korean started his stretch of impressive play at Valhalla for the PGA Championship, finishing 24th. After that, Kim put together finishes of T4 at the RBC Canadian Open and a T26 at last week’s U.S. Open. In between, he finished T43 at The Memorial, but hit the ball great from tee to green.

Tom has done an impressive job of playing well at long and difficult setups, but this week, he will head to a course in TPC River Highlands that should his game immaculately. Both of Kim’s wins have come at short setups that mitigate his biggest weakness, which is driving distance. The course is short this week and fits the mold of the tracks Tom has had great success at over the past few seasons on Tour.

In his past 24 rounds, Kim ranks 7th in Par 4 birdie or better percentage, which will come into play this week. He also ranks 19th in the field in Strokes Gained: Ball Striking.

Kim is already a three-time winner on the PGA Tour and has shown that if he gets a sniff of contention, he can close out a tournament with the best of them.

 

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