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19th Hole

Vincenzi: 2024 WM Phoenix Open First Round Leader picks

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The Waste Management Phoenix Open begins on Thursday in what is sure to be one of the most exciting events of the year. The PGA Tour is back to playing one course per event, which I find to be much more conducive to first round leader betting.

In the past five editions of the tournament, there have been nine first-round leaders or co-leaders. Of the nine, five have come from the morning wave, and four have come from the afternoon wave. It appears there is no real advantage to either starting time historically but that can always be influenced by weather.

As of Tuesday, the wind looks as if it may be a factor during round one. The early starters should see winds 8 MPH with gusts up to 18 MPH. The afternoon starters will have the slightly more difficult draw. Winds will be around 16 MPH with gusts up to 22 MPH. For this reason, I’d slightly favor AM starters but wouldn’t rule out the PM wave completely.

Waste Management Phoenix Open First-Round-Leader Selections

Keith Mitchell +9000 (Bet365)

First-Round Tee Time: 12:22 p.m. Local Time

TPC Scottsdale is the type of course where Keith Mitchell’s skill set could propel him up the leaderboard. He will be able to let it fly off the tee and is always capable of getting a hot putter. Mitchell has had some success in the event, finishing 10th in 2022 while shooting four rounds in the 60’s. He also finished 16th in 2020.

K.H. Lee +10000 (FanDuel, DraftKings, BetMGM)

First-Round Tee Time: 12:55 p.m. Local Time

K.H. Lee famously has played great golf at TPC courses, and TPC Scottsdale is no different. The South Korean came agonizingly close to victory at the event back in 2021, finishing one shot behind Brooks Koepka.

Lee missed the cut at The Farmers but had back-to-back top-30 finishes in his previous two starts at some easier courses in Waialae CC and PGA West. K.H. shot three rounds of 66 at the course when he contended so he’s no stranger to a low round at TPC Scottsdale.

Sam Ryder +12500 (Bet365)

First-Round Tee Time: 12:00 p.m. Local Time

Sam Ryder has been a boom-or-bust player, which is exactly what we’re looking for in a first-round leader bet. The 34-year-old recently had a hot stretch with the irons and is always a go-low candidate on easier courses.

Last year, Ryder finished 20th at the event, and he finished 23rd in 2022, but had a 2nd round 64, which would likely be good enough for FRL if he were able to repeat.

Victor Perez +15000 (BetMGM)

First-Round Tee Time: 9:10 a.m. Local Time

Victor Perez hasn’t played much in 2024, so this is more of a gut play than anything else. He missed the cut in his only start at the Farmers Insurance Open but was able to still gain strokes with his irons despite the disappointing finish.

Perez was playing great in the fall and finished 8th at the DPWT Championship. A week on the PGA Tour at Torrey Pines should have been enough to get his feet wet and feel comfortable this week in Phoenix on a course where his strong iron play could help him shoot a low round.

Adrien Dumont De Chessart+20000 (Bet365)

First-Round Tee Time: 1:50 p.m. Local Time

This is yet another gut play with Dumont De Chessart. The 23-year-old from Belgium has enormous upside and one of the more talented young players in the world but has struggled to start his PGA Tour career.

De Chessart opened his Farmers Insurance Open with a first-round 68, which was a solid score on a tough track. The laid-back atmosphere of TPC Scottsdale and the scoreable layout could be enough for the rookie to find the form that made him a threat to win multiple Korn Ferry Tour events at the end of last season.

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19th Hole

Vincenzi’s 2024 Texas Children’s Houston Open betting preview

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As the Florida swing comes to an end, the PGA Tour makes its way to Houston to play the Texas Children’s Houston Open at Memorial Park Golf Course.

This will be the fourth year that Memorial Park Golf Course will serve as the tournament host. The event did not take place in 2023, but the course hosted the event in 2020, 2021 and 2022.

Memorial Park is a par-70 layout measuring 7,432 yards and features Bermudagrass greens. Historically, the main defense for the course has been thick rough along the fairways and tightly mown runoff areas around the greens. Memorial Park has a unique setup that features three Par 5’s and five Par 3’s.

The field will consist of 132 players, with the top 65 and ties making the cut. There are some big names making the trip to Houston, including Scottie Scheffler, Wyndham Clark, Tony Finau, Will Zalatoris and Sahith Theegala.

Past Winners at Memorial Park

  • 2022: Tony Finau (-16)
  • 2021: Jason Kokrak (-10)
  • 2020: Carlos Ortiz (-13)

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

Key Stats For Memorial Park

Let’s take a look at several metrics for Memorial Park to determine which golfers boast top marks in each category over their last 24 rounds:

Strokes Gained: Approach

Memorial Park is a pretty tough golf course. Golfers are penalized for missing greens and face some difficult up and downs to save par. Approach will be key.

Total Strokes Gained: Approach per round in past 24 rounds:

  1. Tom Hoge (+1.30)
  2. Scottie Scheffler (+1.26)
  3. Keith Mitchell (+0.97) 
  4. Tony Finau (+0.92)
  5. Jake Knapp (+0.84)

Strokes Gained: Off the Tee

Memorial Park is a long golf course with rough that can be penal. Therefore, a combination of distance and accuracy is the best metric.

Total Strokes Gained: Off the Tee per round in past 24 rounds:

  1. Scottie Scheffler (+0.94)
  2. Kevin Dougherty (+0.93)
  3. Cameron Champ (+0.86)
  4. Rafael Campos (+0.84)
  5. Si Woo Kim (+0.70)

Strokes Gained Putting: Bermudagrass + Fast

The Bermudagrass greens played fairly fast the past few years in Houston. Jason Kokrak gained 8.7 strokes putting on his way to victory in 2021 and Tony Finau gained in 7.8 in 2022.

Total Strokes Gained Putting (Bermudagrass) per round past 24 rounds (min. 8 rounds):

  1. Adam Svensson (+1.27)
  2. Harry Hall (+1.01)
  3. Martin Trainer (+0.94)
  4. Taylor Montgomery (+0.88)
  5. S.H. Kim (+0.86)

Strokes Gained: Around the Green

With firm and undulating putting surfaces, holding the green on approach shots may prove to be a challenge. Memorial Park has many tightly mowed runoff areas, so golfers will have challenging up-and-down’s around the greens. Carlos Ortiz gained 5.7 strokes around the green on the way to victory in 2020.

Total Strokes Gained: Around the Green per round in past 24 rounds:

  1. Mackenzie Hughes (+0.76)
  2. S.H. Kim (+0.68)
  3. Scottie Scheffler (+0.64)
  4. Jorge Campillo (+0.62)
  5. Jason Day (+0.60)

Strokes Gained: Long and Difficult

Memorial Park is a long and difficult golf course. This statistic will incorporate players who’ve had success on these types of tracks in the past. 

Total Strokes Gained: Long and Difficult in past 24 rounds:

  1. Scottie Scheffler (+2.45)
  2. Ben Griffin (+1.75)
  3. Will Zalatoris (+1.73)
  4. Ben Taylor (+1.53)
  5. Tony Finau (+1.42)

Course History

Here are the players who have performed the most consistently at Memorial Park. 

Strokes Gained Total at Memorial Park past 12 rounds:

  1. Tyson Alexander (+3.65)
  2. Ben Taylor (+3.40)
  3. Tony Finau (+2.37)
  4. Joel Dahmen (+2.25)
  5. Patton Kizzire (+2.16)

Statistical Model

Below, I’ve reported overall model rankings using a combination of the five key statistical categories previously discussed.

These rankings are comprised of SG: App (24%) SG: OTT (24%); SG: Putting Bermudagrass/Fast (13%); SG: Long and Difficult (13%); SG: ARG (13%) and Course History (13%)

  1. Scottie Scheffler
  2. Wyndham Clark
  3. Tony Finau
  4. Joel Dahmen
  5. Stephan Jaeger 
  6. Aaron Rai
  7. Sahith Theegala
  8. Keith Mitchell 
  9. Jhonnatan Vegas
  10. Jason Day
  11. Kurt Kitayama
  12. Alex Noren
  13. Will Zalatoris
  14. Si Woo Kim
  15. Adam Long

2024 Texas Children’s Houston Open Picks

Will Zalatoris +2000 (Caesars)

Scottie Scheffler will undoubtedly be difficult to beat this week, so I’m starting my card with someone who I believe has the talent to beat him if he doesn’t have his best stuff.

Will Zalatoris missed the cut at the PLAYERS, but still managed to gain strokes on approach while doing so. In an unpredictable event with extreme variance, I don’t believe it would be wise to discount Zalatoris based on that performance. Prior to The PLAYERS, the 27-year-old finished T13, T2 and T4 in his previous three starts.

Zalatoris plays his best golf on long and difficult golf courses. In his past 24 rounds, he ranks 3rd in the category, but the eye test also tells a similar story. He’s contended at major championships and elevated events in the best of fields with tough scoring conditions.  The Texas resident should be a perfect fit at Memorial Park Golf Club.

Alex Noren +4500 (FanDuel)

Alex Noren has been quietly playing some of his best golf of the last half decade this season. The 41-year-old is coming off back-to-back top-20 finishes in Florida including a T9 at The PLAYERS in his most recent start.

In his past 24 rounds, Noren ranks 21st in the field in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee, 30th in Strokes Gained: Around the Green, 25th in Strokes Gained: Total on long and difficult courses and 21st in Strokes Gained: Putting on fast Bermudagrass greens.

In addition to his strong recent play, the Swede also has played well at Memorial Park. In 2022, Noren finished T4 at the event, gaining 2.2 strokes off the tee and 7.0 strokes on approach for the week. In his two starts at the course, he’s gained an average of .6 strokes per round on the field, indicating he is comfortable on these greens.

Noren has been due for a win for what feels like an eternity, but Memorial Park may be the course that suits him well enough for him to finally get his elusive first PGA Tour victory.

Mackenzie Hughes +8000 (FanDuel)

Mackenzie Hughes found himself deep into contention at last week’s Valspar Championship before faltering late and finishing in a tie for 3rd place. While he would have loved to win the event, it’s hard to see the performance as anything other than an overwhelming positive sign for the Canadian.

Hughes has played great golf at Memorial Park in the past. He finished T7 in 2020, T29 in 2021 and T16 in 2022. The course fit seems to be quite strong for Hughes. He’s added distance off the tee in the past year or and ranks 8th in the field for apex height, which will be a key factor when hitting into Memorial Park’s elevated greens with steep run-off areas.

In his past 24 rounds, Hughes is the best player in the field in Strokes Gained: Around the Greens. The ability to scramble at this course will be extremely important. I believe Hughes can build off of his strong finish last week and contend once again to cement himself as a President’s Cup consideration.

Akshay Bhatia +8000 (FanDuel)

Akshay Bhatia played well last week at the Valspar and seemed to be in total control of his golf ball. He finished in a tie for 17th and shot an impressive -3 on a difficult Sunday. After struggling Thursday, Akshay shot 68-70-68 in his next three rounds.

Thus far, Bhatia has played better at easier courses, but his success at Copperhead may be due to his game maturing. The 22-year-old has enormous potential and the raw talent to be one of the best players in the world when he figures it all out.

Bhatia is a high upside play with superstar qualities and may just take the leap forward to the next stage of his career in the coming months.

Cameron Champ +12000 (FanDuel)

Cameron Champ is a player I often target in the outright betting market due to his “boom-or-bust” nature. It’s hard to think of a player in recent history with three PGA Tour wins who’s been as inconsistent as Champ has over the course of his career.

Despite the erratic play, Cam Champ simply knows how to win. He’s won in 2018, 2019 and 2021, so I feel he’s due for a win at some point this season. The former Texas A&M product should be comfortable in Texas and last week he showed us that his game is in a pretty decent spot.

Over his past 24 rounds, Champ ranks 3rd in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee and 30th in Strokes Gained: Total on long and difficult courses. Given his ability to spike at any given time, Memorial Park is a good golf course to target Champ on at triple digit odds.

Robert MacIntyre +12000 (FanDuel)

The challenge this week is finding players who can possibly beat Scottie Scheffler while also not dumping an enormous amount of money into an event that has a player at the top that looks extremely dangerous. Enter McIntyre, who’s another boom-or-bust type player who has the ceiling to compete with anyone when his game is clicking on all cylinders.

In his past 24 rounds, MacIntyre ranks 16th in the field in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee, 17th in Strokes Gained: Around the Green and 10th in Strokes Gained: Total on long and difficult courses.

MacIntyre’s PGA Tour season has gotten off to a slow start, but he finished T6 in Mexico, which is a course where players will hit driver on the majority of their tee shots, which is what we will see at Memorial Park. Texas can also get quite windy, which should suit MacIntyre. Last July, the Scot went toe to toe with Rory McIlroy at the Scottish Open before a narrow defeat. It would take a similar heroic effort to compete with Scheffler this year in Houston.

Ryan Moore +15000 (FanDuel)

Ryan Moore’s iron play has been absolutely unconscious over his past few starts. At The PLAYERS Championship in a loaded field, he gained 6.1 strokes on approach and last week at Copperhead, he gained 9.0 strokes on approach.

It’s been a rough handful of years on Tour for the 41-year-old, but he is still a five-time winner on the PGA Tour who’s young enough for a career resurgence. Moore has chronic deterioration in a costovertebral joint that connects the rib to the spine, but has been getting more consistent of late, which is hopefully a sign that he is getting healthy.

Veterans have been contending in 2024 and I believe taking a flier on a proven Tour play who’s shown signs of life is a wise move at Memorial Park.

 

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19th Hole

John Daly stuns fans into silence with brutal opening tee shot on PGA Tour Champions

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When beginning his first round at the Hoag Classic on the PGA Tour Champions, John Daly got off to a shockingly bad start.

The two-time major winner took the crowd by surprise when he topped the ball off the tee.

 

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A post shared by Fore Play (@foreplaypod)

As Daly walks off the tee box disappointed, one fan can be heard saying “I can do that”.

He ended up making a double-bogey on the hole, but ended his round on a positive note, making birdie on four of his last seven holes and ended the day three over par.

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19th Hole

PGA Tour pro left fuming after being heckled during Valspar Championship

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Over the weekend at the Valspar Championship, Hayden Buckley was getting ready to hit a shot on the par 4 12th hole at Copperhead when a rowdy fan yelled in his backswing.

Despite having to step off, Buckey was able to get up-and-down for par to remain at -3, which at the time on Saturday was seven shots behind the leader, Keith Mitchell.

On X, comments replying to the video seemed to think Buckley had time to reset following the shout, while others inferred gambling had something to do with the incident.

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