Monkey off ball striking Russell’s back.
Well, well, well… what a week Russell Henley had; he’s one of those players I have had on my dreaded DO NOT BACK list for a long time; there is something about him every time I look to him for some success; he doesn’t have it for me, maybe though that’ll change now. One thing I will say is that due to him not winning for 5 years, he drifted last week to a fantastic price and now demands more respect in the markets. Ironically something I will be touching upon in this week’s preview respect.
Before I move on to this week, there are a few names I want to mention from last week that you really should be looking out for going into next year. Taylor Montgomery, the first, continues to be a force that is putting up incredible numbers, a win indeed on its way, I’m sure. Will Gordon and Ben Griffin, both great stories, had 40 birdies between them last week and will undoubtedly have significant rookie years ahead. Lastly, a quick mention of Tom Detry and Dean Burmester, both players we know from playing in Europe: their stats have been impressive the last few weeks, and I will undoubtedly not be ignoring them moving forward in PGA Tour fields.
Feels like Christmas this week
Well, this week is more exciting than it should be, mainly because we’ve had a month of no-shot data, and that is hell for anyone like me; this week, it’s back. The coverage is also better, mainly because we are in Houston, Texas, and we will get featured groups and everything in between.
Memorial Park Golf Course is a course we’ve seen many times but has only held this event in the last few years. It’s a Par 70 and is much longer than we’ve seen in the past few weeks but don’t let that fool you. What you see in terms of yardage on paper or the scorecard for that matter, every year never seems to play as long as it says. This tells me tee positions have always been key here. So in terms of length, I would say this is a medium sized course, rather than what a lot of people are saying, it’s not long!
Another factor of the course that I always look at is the number of holes to par. A vast five Par 3’s this week, varying from 115 to 214 yards, can play very tough and lead to bogies and doubles very sharply if you are not careful.
This means, for me this week, scrambling and your talent around the greens have to play a factor, something I have not seemed to add to my models for months. This also means we are not getting a birdie fest this week, a welcome change and I expect the winning score to be between -10 and -15.
Previous winners at this event; I will only include the last two due to being a different venue in the past before that. Jason Kokrak (-10); 2020: Carlos Ortiz (-13).
Uneven lies and undulating greens are the natural defence of this course. Bermuda greens and tough sloping run-offs where you will see lots of players chipping from tight lies, so again, getting yourself out of trouble here will be a significant factor. The field this week, not too dissimilar to last week, World No2 Scottie Sheffler returns and is at ridiculously low odds (5/1) along with his mate; second favourite Sam Burns (13/1). The weather is not showing to be a significant factor this week as you would expect in Texas; however, as always, some stronger winds could impact the field, especially as the greens and fairways will be hard and fast as the week progresses.
What I am looking out for this week….
What you will get used to every week with my previews, I always base my tips on what the winner will get done well and what he will not be doing (It’ll be my catchphrase soon). I see the winner this week, having strong Tee to Green data and someone who strikes his irons well, from much further out. Compared with previous weeks, where we saw many wedges into greens, this week, we are looking at much bigger irons and yardages into holes. I know it sounds simple but avoid bogeys, and you will go a long way to being on top of this leaderboard. Tight lies, tricky putts and long irons create much more chance of high scores, and I will be looking for players who are great at avoiding bogeys this week.
Strokes gained data Off the Tee I’m not that concerned with, mainly because length comes back as a factor and you can get away with not being as accurate if you are long. I am not saying you haven’t got to put your ball in the fairway, but I am saying that the closer you are to the green here, the fewer mistakes you will make and the more inventive you can be with your shots. An average PGA tour player this week who is 140 yards out rather than 175 yards out will have so many more shots available to them in their repertoire.
Bermuda greens are back and it’s nice to have a much more familiar surface, and of course, some players struggle with this surface, so I will look for some stronger Bermuda players. However, I am looking at avoiding bad putters as a whole item this week rather than the surface itself being the factor for a bad putting display. So sorry, Doug Ghim Reaper, you won’t be tipped up by me.
I want to keep it simple as I can, and a don’t want to be missing another 55/1 shot.
My model for this week these are the trends I am looking for;
- SG TEE TO GREEN
- Bogey Avoidance
- Driving Length
- SG Putting
- Approach + 175-200
- Greens in Regulation
- Some recent form
Here is how that model looks for Top 25 along with their average betting odds;
- Andrew Putnam 66/1
- Maverick McNealy 22/1
- Aaron Wise 16/1
- Taylor Montgomery 25/1
- Tony Finau 22/1
- Sam Burns 11/1
- Jason Day 30/1
- Taylor Pendrith 60/1
- Russell Henley 25/1
- Lee Hodges 80/1
- Denny McCarthy 33/1
- Matthew NeSmith 35/1
- Keith Mitchell 70/1
- Si Woo Kim 45/1
- Hideki Matsuyama 20/1
- Scottie Scheffler 6/1
- Emiliano Grillo 45/1
- Robby Shelton IV 90/1
- Joel Dahmen 35/1
- Seonghyeon Kim 150/1
- Brendan Steele 110/1
- Davis Thompson 100/1
- Martin Laird 125/1
- Chesson Hadley 125/1
- Patrick Rodgers 55/1
Breaking it down and my early thoughts…
I’ve got to be honest. Early on I have strong thoughts on a number of guys, so breaking down my final tips will be much more complicated than I first thought. Weirdly the guys I think are vital players, like Finau and Wise, were also two of the first mentioned last week in my preview. Whether that is a sign that maybe I had those thoughts on the wrong week or that all their data shows how well they are playing right now, that’s to decide as we go on through the week I think.
I tend to want to ignore Big Tone Finau missing the cut last week, although his amount of bogeys does worry me. Sam Burns looks like a strong play, and that’s easy for me to say for the 12th-best player in the world, but he could show up here and have a similar effect to the way Henley did last week and run away with it. Taylor Montgomery, whom I began with as a player to watch, again shows up in all the right ways on all the models, another guy you will see many people put up in their content this week, and I tend to agree with those thoughts, especially while the putter is hot. Whilst we are on the subject of popular picks this week, one of those is going to be Jason Day. As I’m writing this on Tuesday morning, he comes in at 33/1, and he will only get shorter. He has good form here and hits long irons well, and I’ve read this week that he is hitting numbers he was shooting in 2017 when he was in the world’s top 5. It’s almost getting to the point where you have to back him purely down to FOMO (Fear of missing out).
Further down the list and players, I’ve had on my shortlist to back this week include great Irons players like Henley, Pendrith and Hughes, who will undoubtedly gain strokes purely down to their proximity to the hole stats. Still, I am worried about their lack of distance off the tee.
There are also some great putters in the field here to consider that will suit these greens and just purely down to their strokes gained putting; McCarthy, Lower, Rodgers, and McNealy will all avoid bogeys just purely down to their putting, something to consider.
I also liked some of what I saw last week of Davis Riley’s game; he seemed to put something together that looked like he was hitting some form again but maybe not something he can sustain over four rounds yet. Similar to players like Joel Dahmen and Si-woo Kim here, both players you would typically see me back on this type of course, but 4 rounds, nope not for me. They do gain lots of strokes off the tee and are always very direct, which prevents mistakes, maybe the first round leader market if you need some pointers in there.
Supposedly if you’ve got this far down reading you read the start of this preview, I mentioned respect, and when I say respect, I mean some of these prices being offered and touted on two players, particularly this week. Two players; I can almost guarantee I will be back this week.
Sepp Straka, the first I cannot ignore; he is 90/1 while I am writing this, yes 90/1, a player who has won on tour this year; at that price, it is disrespectful to me. Yes, we could get a little hangover from him, after not much golf has been played as we did with Finau last week, but at that price, he is someone you have to have something on before Thursday morning.
Another one of those whom I believe is not getting the respect he deserves this week is Davis Thompson. Thompson, another 90/1 shot, which, if you did just a model on Tee to Green SG and Driving Distance and Accuracy, would be level on data with Scottie Sheffler; punch it in if you don’t believe me. I’m not saying he will win, because he probably won’t, but because of how long and straight he is, he has to be a selection this week.
I hope if anything this week, this has given you a few pointers. I troll through hours of data to get these thoughts down so I am really happy to answer any questions or hear your thoughts, please feel free to message me on twitter at any time.
This week’s Tips
Montgomery/Day/McCarthy (Three Chances to Win) 3pts
Arron Wise – 20/1 (2 pts win)
Sepp Straka – 80/1 (0.5pts ew) 8 Places
Davis Thompson – 9/1 (Top 10) 1pt
Dean Burmester – 8/1 (Top 10) 1pt
Sam Burns – 90/1 (Wire to Wire) 0.5pts