February 15, 2016

Northern Trust Open - Course Analysis

We witnessed putting be incredibly important last week, giving Vaughn Taylor the win on clutch putts while giving Mickelson a second place finish after rimming out his last one to send it to a playoff...

That is the opposite of how important putting is this week.

At Riviera Country Club, measuring a little shorter than last year's by 20-30 yards, the 7,322 yard course is going to be a challenge primarily for those who can approach the green and get the spin and bounce they need to stop it short.

Why is that the case?

Ranking 1st in:
Lowest greens-in-regulation percentage (51.38%)
Lowest putts made within 4-8' percentage (63.67%)
Total distance of putts made (67' 9")

This course is supremely difficult from getting to the green to holing a putt even from a couple of yards.

Just for reference, Total distance of putts made averages out to making a 3'9" putt per hole for each round. That means PGA tour pros can't even make most of the six or seven footers on these greens without screwing up half the time. Insane.

Also ranking 6th in driving accuracy percentage (51.52%) and 2nd in strokes gained tee to green (-.016), getting to that point where you're taking the short stick is hard enough. A course like this mimics some of the difficult scoring conditions we saw from courses like Firestone CC, East Lake GC, and Augusta (we know who won the last 2 tournaments).

Coming up tomorrow will be a breakdown of the top 10 players to target at Riviera.

February 14, 2016

AT&T Pebble Beach Results

Congratulations to Vaughn Taylor for winning the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Some important stat takeaways from his win:

(Only on Pebble Beach course, his first and fourth rounds):
Ranked T2 in Greens in Regulation
Ranked 3rd in Approach shot distance from Pin
Cumulatively gained 7.367 and 5.183 strokes Tee-to-green in rounds one and four respectively.
Gained 1.92 strokes putting in his final round, sinking a close to 29 footer on the 16th hole finishing one stroke better than runner-up Phil Mickelson.

Could you have predicted him winning? Probably not. Although he is ranked 31st in strokes gained tee-to-green and 15th in driving accuracy percentage in his past 15 events prior to this tournament.

Check back in a couple days for my detailed analysis on the Northern Trust Open. I'm going to bring out all the guns on this one*.

*Since I came in second place in a single entry tournament: only one good pick away from winning a trip to Las Vegas for Tiger Jam. So sad :( Lost out because of Phil Mickelson's runner up finish.
I had R. Castro / B. Haas / J. Walker / D. Lee / W. Wilcox / P. Reed as my lineup.

February 10, 2016

AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am

Last week's debacle featured Rickie Fowler running out of gas in a playoff against Hideki Matsuyama. Kudos to both players for finishing atop the leaderboard. Hideki's consistent play and safe approach is what won him the tournament with a par after Fowler put a shot in the water and could not match in the fourth playoff hole.

This week's featured field has tons of high powered players in probably the best full field so far this year. With Jordan Speith still running hot and being the obvious player in contention to win it at the 6,800+ yard course in Monterey, we'll take a look at some less obvious picks that should make the cut and put up low scores come Sunday:

Due to access constraints, I will be unable to post statistical data until shotlink information becomes available to me again. I will just be posting names and a short bio on why they should find success.

Brandt Snedeker - Winner of this event last year, his confidence is definitely up there and he's bringing his A game to the seaside course. With consistent strokes and good putting, he should find the top 10 once again and might even pull off another win to the season.

Jimmy Walker - Winner here in 2014 and consistently improving after his solid start at Farmers. Don't underestimate his long driving as well and watch him put up a couple of low rounds heading into the weekend on superb weather.

Scott Brown - Seeking redemption after missing out on his three day lead at Farmers. He will want to do anything to get back that spot on the leaderboard.

David Lingmerth - Great player on shorter courses and knows how to manage risk well. Look for him to contain his bogeys and really put up the low scores necessary to compete with the best in the field.

Roberto Castro - Just had a child and withdrew from WMPO as a result of that. Sometimes bringing a new life into this world means you just have to step up your game to provide for it.

Chesson Hadley - Finished solid here last year and looking to repeat after getting a little warmed up with the Phoenix Open. Can post a solid low round here and catapult himself to a top 50 finish with scoring conditions being absolutely perfect.

Will Wilcox - Solid performance last year in this event coupled with his great start to the 2015-2016 season should set him off on the right tone with a top 25 finish at Pebble.

Random Pickings:

Danny Lee - When this man finds his groove, he's usually good for a top 10 finish for a couple of tournaments. The conditions here along with the course layout mimic the Greenbrier pretty well, where he won. He is a bit of a random variable but if he can post a low round 2 or 3 he can definitely finish in the top 5 here.

Shane Lowry - Dude had a great week last week and looks to continue his solid putting and gameplay. Can easily place top 10 in this tournament given his new found success.

My Super Sleeper:

Joe Affrunti - When I did have access to shotlink, this guy was an absolute beast in every one of his starts, ranking in the top 5 in putting distances, especially from far away, and in approaching, almost in every stat category (125 out, 200+ out, its nuts)

Also in contention are the players that I've picked before in the past couple of weeks: J.B. Holmes, Andrew Loupe, Si Woo Kim. If one of these guys win I'm going to be kicking myself for not outright picking them but having had them in past weeks, I think its important to mention their names at the very least.

February 04, 2016

Phoenix Waste Management Open Statistical Picks

And here we go again folks!

The course:

TPC Scottsdale, a medium-long course playing 7266 in last year's event has 3 holes with water barely in play (unless your tee shots are wayward). This will be the opportunity for low scoring especially when bombing it off the tee-box and players take their chances on four holes with eagle in play. Shooting 60 here has been done before and we might even see something pretty close to that this year, although weather here will start cold and heat up heading into the weekend. It's a fairly undulated course with no particular stats that stand out to target other than being a long hitter will get you a ways in closing gaps to eagle a couple of holes. Anyone could see lucky (or unlucky) bounces everywhere which increases the variance of players to choose from.

The players:

I really hate to limit myself to four players here since all of them could just hit the sand and not one make the cut but I'm going to do my best to give it a shot. I am solely picking players who are not necessarily world renowned but have gained momentum in previous tournaments and are hungry to bring one home in an event without Jordan Speith (because he is just crushing the golf world right now).

J.B. Holmes - A solid ball striker, J.B. finished here with a T66 last year carding two rounds of 73. He's definitely improved his stroke over the past couple of months and has become one of the tour's premier ball strikers from 50-125 yards, putting it second closest to the hole than any other pro this year. Putting has also been an issue but something he had found his stroke in at this event, putting all putts from 6' in the back of the cup, so I trust him to find confidence setting up each hole well and ranking 2nd in driving distance at this event last year.

Tony Finau - The player to watch coming into this event. Ranking 1st in driving distance last year and finishing T22, he looks improved on his putting stroke after throwing up his lowest putt round of 24 in round 2 of the CareerBuilder Challenge. Having to only play one course should suit his eye well and help build confidence in his tactics approaching every hole. He's one of the few guys who will put himself with an eagle opportunity every time on the short par four 17th hole, so look for him to continue his improvement and finish in the top-15 this year.

Charles Howell III - A statistical anomaly this year, he's managed to finish here with a T6 in 2014, but couldn't follow it up after course changes last year. He still has an average driving distance over 300 yards and is very hot coming into this event with 4 top-15 finishes and a T17 the week before those. I see him posting his usual low scores and capitalizing on eagle opportunities once again, especially as the season is coming up on his favorite event, The Masters.

Jaime Lovemark - Well rounded in driving the ball averaging the same driving distance as J.B., Lovemark faltered under the pressure of his three day lead at CareerBuilder with some awful mistakes and getting into his own head. He is still very healthy though and just needs to find confidence in himself, something that poises well for him at the Phoenix Open. Being an event where young first-time winners usually take home the cake, Jaime shook off his jitters with Torrey Pines as a good buffer. Still being a top 30 player this year in percentage of putts made within 10', I can only see his stock going up from here and shaking out a possible top-10 maybe even top-5 finish. He's a bit of a long-shot but can definitely take home the cake if he gets the ball rolling his way.

Good luck to everyone out in the field.

P.S. I hate to limit myself to just four picks though so I just have to throw out there that Kevin Streelman, a Scottsdale native, played well at Torrey Pines and I wouldn't be surprised if he ended up coming away with a solid finish here. Posting a T30 here last year shooting a 64 in the final round, he could run really hot at familiar turf and with the confidence boost of finishing T3 last week, I think he finds it in himself to want to make a run at the trophy.

February 02, 2016

Farmers Insurance Open Final Thoughts

Congratulations to Brandt Snedeker for winning the Farmers Insurance Open. This was his 3rd consecutive top 3 finish in 3 starts and he did it in style by being the only player under par on the last day of play. The scoring conditions really worked against everyone on the course in the final round; but Brandt's quick and natural play helped him roll in a couple great putts and stay just 1 stroke ahead  of having to face K.J. Choi in a playoff.
Some important stats to note of his play:
1) He had the lowest number of putts in his last round with 26.
2) He three putted just once, avoiding it entirely for the remainder of his other 3 rounds.
3) He made 75% of putts from 10-15 feet and was ranked fourth in his percentage category.
4) When I said putts from 6 feet were important, not for Brandt! He had none all four rounds due to solid approach play. He ranked first in approaches from 50-75 yards from the rough, placing the ball an average of 4 feet away from the hole. That's insane!
5) His risk mitigation with approach putting really solidified his play ranking first in the category and putting the ball an average of 1'8" to the hole. If that ranks first, then its better understood how poor scoring conditions and risky putting allowed most of the field to shoot so high by the last day. If only people were as wise with their approach putting as Brandt.

Si Woo Kim posted a T-18 after having shot 5 over par on his last day of play. On average the course was playing 7+ over par on the last day, With 4 of those strokes easily attributed to the pin placements on day four at Torrey pines. But the extreme wind and rain definitely pushed that average to its limits. Since he finished just outside the top-15 but shot a little under average, it's still quite a feat all things considered. He finished first in approaches from 75-100 yards from the fairway, placing the ball 2'4" from the hole on average. Also, Si Woo placed second in driving accuracy, ensuring he didn't lose strokes hitting it from the rough grass that gripped the club all week for players. Who ranked #1 in that category? K.J. Choi, who placed second in the event. The rough was a huge factor in play, especially down the stretch, as winds gusted and made it more difficult to drive it down and straight. Lastly, ranking 11th in putts from 10 feet definitely helped keep his score lower than most at Torrey Pines.

Marc Leishman failed to make his second consecutive cut by 1 stroke. It was unfortunate when the cut line moved from even par to -1, especially when he came down the last two holes birdie birdie. He just failed to really capitalize on anything and faltered considerably on his approach game. He lost 3.4 strokes per round from tee-to-green (to put that into perspective, J.B. Holmes gained 3.37 strokes per round from tee-to-green and finished in a tie for 6th). Shots from 50-125 yards out on the fairway were also, on average, 28'4" which is a horrendous statistic when you account for the low scoring conditions the first two days provided. He had a bad tournament on the good days at Torrey Pines, so look for him to be an easy waive for future tournaments till he finds his rhythm again.

Andrew Loupe was probably the most disappointing of my picks. After being tied 1st on the leaderboard after day one in the clubhouse at -6, he precipitously dropped down by shooting two consecutive rounds at +3 then finishing the last day another +6 to keep that score as his final. His average driving may have been second ranked among all players in the event, but it did not make up for not landing it in the fairway, with an accuracy of only 30.36%, almost 20% less than the average for the tournament. Sub-par putting, which really held him back at Torrey Pines, by having a below-average 3 putt avoidance and lower than average percentage of putts made within ten feet reduced his odds for ever making it to the top 40. One factor that stood out the most: his scrambling. From the fringe, rough, bunker, and overall total scrambling, his rank was significantly below the tournament average. If he could just practice chipping out of that rough (kikuyugrass), I could find him easily gaining back close to 3-4 strokes and putting him in a top 25 finish.

All this being said, congrats to everyone who made the cut and played through those crazy conditions. I'll be posting tomorrow for the Phoenix WM Open statistical picks and who should look to shoot great scores out there in Arizona. See you after the break!