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!