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Hollywood Knights ⭐️

Published 9 months ago • 13 min read

O “no” Canada

It was an incredible week at Read The Line. Congratulations to Ashleigh Buhai who won the ShopRite LPGA Classic and secured our seventh win of the year! That’s now 19 wins in a little over 18 months since we started RTL. Her final round 65 started with four birdies in the first five holes: amazing!

Canada on the other hand was a tough one to watch. Nick Hardy beat our Tommy Fleetwood with a 72’ eagle putt on the fourth sudden death playoff hole. The week was a financial success as our FOUR outrights finished 2, 6, 6, 8! One could only wonder if Tommy closed on the seventy-second hole with a birdie. We could have finally had our first double win Sunday…

The stuff that dreams are made of

Waiting for the 123rd United States Open to begin at Los Angeles Country Club is like being Dorothy about to open the front door for the first time in Oz. There are many wonderful major championship venues in the world, but few share the visual ensemble of George Thomas’s creation. The North Course will host our national championship inside the city limits of Los Angeles for the first time since 1948.

The par 70 scorecard has 10 par 4s, three par 5s, and five par 3s. This unique collection of pars barely describes the 7,421-yard layout. Nestled in-between Century City and the Hollywood hills, the juxtaposed combination of city, suburb, and parkland golf is something out of a nearby movie studio set. The original design underwent an extensive renovation in 2010 by the team of Gil Hanse, Jim Wagner, and Geoff Shackelford.

Together they have created the most highly anticipated major championship debut in some time. I know this sounds like a great deal of hyperbole to begin the weekly narrative, but I can assure you from personal experience, this place is beyond special. I played LACC’s North Course in December of 2019. My return this week has confirmed my first impression from a couple of years ago; this championship will have all the theater of a Hollywood blockbuster.

The course is in competitive condition. The turf is firm and the USGA has a nice grasp on the agronomy. This is the first time we have seen Bermudagrass rough since Pinehurst in the 2014 US Open. Most areas were cut to a manageable 3+” on Monday. The region has not seen measurable rain since May 19. The forecast is clear for the week ahead and temperatures are predicted in the mid 70s for each round.

Nine of the top 10 in the OWGR are ready to go alongside 23 of the top 25. The field of 156 will be cut to the top 60 and ties for the final 36-holes. The USGA has not announced the purse or first-place prize yet, but last year it was the richest men’s major with a purse of $17.5 million dollars. I doubt they will touch LIV levels, but somebody this week is walking away with almost $4 million dollars, the US Open trophy, and a piece of history.

There are six par 4s on the card that measure over 460 yards in length. Two of the par 3s measure over 280! The firm conditions lend to a truly unique tournament experience. The brilliance of this course comes in the variety of ways each hole can be setup. The USGA loves to challenge the field. To contend this week, you will need to adapt. PGA TOUR golf can be very predictable. The guys know what they are going to get when they play Harbour Town. This tournament will be totally different.

Looking back over the last ten championships, let’s cover a couple of trends.

  • The average winning score is six under par.
  • Six times in the last decade, the US Open was played on a par 70 and the average winning score of those events was five under par.
  • The average pre-tournament odds of those ten winners are +2600.
  • Eight of the last ten winners had pre-tournament odds of +3000 or less.

Recent form counts in the US Open. Nine of the last ten winners finished in the top 25 in the major prior to winning. Six of those winners finished in the top 10 prior to capturing the title. We don’t need that trend to know Brooks and Scottie are on a short list of favorites. The course presents several terrain tests. Many of the fairways are dramatically tilted. The entire 18 holes change elevation several times from the hillside and then back into the valley.

There will be a coastal southwest wind each afternoon from the Pacific Ocean. The wind from the water creates a crosswind on 13 of the holes. The North Course will surprise you with wide fairways and above average sized greens. Don’t be fooled by the numbers. This is target golf. The slopes send you into the trouble. There’s a barranca that runs throughout the lower part of the course. It comes into play on seven holes. Throw in 65 bunkers and these guys will have their hands full.

Recovery will be the key to contention. LACC has some birdie holes, but unlike so many major venues it gives you space as well. Be warned, when you see room, the real examination takes place. Thomas wants you using those angles to cover the course properly. LACC is such an interesting test. I’ll cover more in the outrights section when it comes to what it will take to win. For now, it is important to give you a perspective of how different this championship will be.

There is no better stage in the world than Los Angeles to cover all the drama surrounding golf right now. Inside this incredible city tales of victory and defeat are told every day. The USGA is about to embark upon a transcendent global championship. One we all believe will have an epic Hollywood ending…

US Open on TV:

  • Thursday - Friday 10:00am - 5:00pm (USA), 5:00 - 8:00pm (NBC)
  • Saturday 10:00am - 8:00pm (NBC)
  • Sunday 10:00am - 7:00pm (NBC)
  • Complete details on USGA.org
  • All times EDT.

US Open starts in...

Count down to 2023-06-15T10:30:00.000Z

There's a difference between knowing the path and walking the path.

There’s nothing quite like on-site coverage. We have won the last three events where I have walked the course prior to the championship. I have also played the North Course. The combination of those two experiences will earn us another win and for the third week in a row!

Watching the world’s best players prepare for the US Open has been very, very interesting. Everyone is in full game plan mode. This course cannot be learned in a couple days. It will take the entire week (and more) to figure it out. From what I have witnessed, I have a very good idea of what it will take to contend.

  • Let’s start at the green and work our way out. Approach putting will be essential for shaving strokes off your score. Much like St. Andrews last summer, these are some wild green surfaces. They have interesting outcroppings and more levels than a carpenter. Getting the ball close with your first putt will not only lower your score, but it removes unneeded stress throughout the course of 72-holes.
  • When these guys do not know a course, I always favor short game specialists. They can save a round from anywhere, and the North Course has some extreme greenside situations. With 36 bunkers surrounding the putting surfaces, sand play from the bunkers and barranca is important. Other than solid ball striking off uneven lies, I believe short game is the second most important skill this week.
  • The last six US Open winners have gained nearly eight strokes against the field on approach. LACC will test your long iron game. Forty-four percent of approach shots will come from over 200 yards. Sixty-one percent over 175 yards. The remaining shots are going to be from less than 125 yards. That’s quite the combination of iron acumen needed to contend.
  • Much will be made of the wide fairways. Again, please don’t be fooled by the drones. They sure show us pretty perspectives, but until you walk the course you cannot begin to feel how Thomas made the course flow with the land. The cant of these fairways eliminates one side of the landing area. If the fairway is flat, you better hit the correct side to get the best angle on approach. Miss them altogether and that Bermudagrass rough will send you home on Friday.

My last outright talent needed is not physical. The LIV competitors have been viewed under heavy scrutiny for about a year. The media can really let you know where you stand. Maybe Brooks and DJ don’t care about being accepted, but I believe part of them does. The PIF and PGA TOUR news flips the script and now allows those players to compete under the radar. The difficult questions will now be relentlessly asked of the Rahms and Rorys.

The return to acceptance gives them a positive push and I don’t feel the PGA TOUR players are ready for all the new questions partnering with the PIF has to offer. The world is round, and with the golf world suddenly sending everyone full circle in a major setting, the best will be tested by more than just the venue.

Outright winners - The US Open

I know Scottie Scheffler is the odds favorite to win the US Open, but in my mind, Brooks Koepka is the one to beat. Since 2017, Koepka has the lowest scoring average in the majors. He also has the lowest scoring average on par 70 golf courses over the past five seasons on the PGA TOUR. Short game? In his last four LIV events, Brooks has finished in the top seven in scrambling. What better way to say I told you so, than one year after answering questions about leaving to play LIV, he wins the national championship for the third time.

He grew up playing the firm and fast conditions across the sand belt courses of Australia. Cam Smith is ready to take over golf again and this venue is the perfect place for his game. For all the reasons we won with Smith at St. Andrews, the North Course fits as well. Starting with the world’s best short game and approach putting, Cam will save strokes throughout the round(s). He finished ninth at Oak Hill on a course where he lost a bunch of strokes off the tee. Widen those fairways at LACC and you might as well roll out the red carpet for him to win.

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A "classic" combination

The Meijer LPGA Classic for Simply Give is a relatively new event on the LPGA tour. In the eight years the ladies have travelled just outside Grand Rapids, Michigan to Blythefield Country Club, there have been a couple of shared characteristics amongst the winners. Before we get to those outright predictions, let's first set the stage for an interesting layout and a tremendous field of competitors.

  • Blythefield Country Club has a unique scorecard. A Par 72 course covering 6,556 yards.
  • It has eight Par 4's, five Par 3's and five Par 5's.
  • Set on the side of hill, the course doesn't have many level lies. Players will be tested off the tee with six holes bending left to right and three bending right to left.
  • More than half the Par 3's play uphill only adding to these one-shot challenges.
  • The club went through a recent bunker restoration. Thirty-seven greenside bunkers await these ladies. Better bring your sunblock!

It is a fun test, and by fun, I mean players make birdies here. Although it sounds tough to amateurs, the ladies of the LPGA tear this place up. The average winning score over the tournament history is 19 under par. The average cutline has been even par in that time which is interesting. Some players are certainly scoring, while the remainder of the field sits just under par for 72-holes. I think that reflects the field the Meijer gets the week before a major championship.

Next week is the KPMG Women's PGA Championship. Only five of the top 10 in the Rolex rankings are here playing with 14 of the top 25. This top-heavy field reflects an odds board with plenty of short numbers near the beginning of the betting board. Our outrights will reflect the field composition. We have 144 total players and the top 65 and ties make the weekend.

  • The purse is $2.5 million dollars, and the winner will receive $375,000.

The weather looks fine in Michigan. Temperatures are forecasted in the high 70s getting into the high 80s by Sunday. There's a little rain in the forecast for Thursday, but overall, the women should have great playing conditions. The windiest day is Thursday alongside the possible rain. The breeze dissipates as we reach the weekend. I mentioned the renovation from a couple years ago. One other detail is the routing.

  • The LPGA plays BCC in the following order.
  • Front nine: 8,9,1,2,3,4,5,17,18
  • Back nine: 10,11,12,13,14,15,16,6,7

When handicapping a tournament, we must always make sure we not only understand the design features, but the course routing as well. Too many times, I read content where experts forget to check with tournament officials. Sixty-four bunkers decorate the landscape. The plan is for 3" high rough, but I'll believe that when I see it. These ladies will be enticed to use the driver and go deep. Competing with a men's major weekend is a tall task. I can see officials setting this up for a 20 under birdiefest to catch some of our attention.

Meijer LPGA Classic on TV:

  • Thursday - Friday 3:00 - 6:00pm (Golf Channel)
  • Saturday 3:00 - 6:00pm (Golf Channel)
  • Sunday 2:00 - 4:00pm (CBS)
  • Complete details on LPGA.com
  • All times EDT.

Meijer LPGA Classic starts in...

Count down to 2023-06-15T11:00:00.000Z

Making 4s on the 5s

Fresh off our seventh victory of the season with Ashleigh Buhai at the ShopRite, we nailed the blueprint for winning. Much like last week's "Classic," the Meijer has a similar formula for success. Scoring is the number one priority as I believe the ladies will need an average of five under par each day to win. How will the top of the leaderboard achieve such scoring? Follow along.

  • Scoring at the Meijer starts with the par 5s. There are FIVE of them and they only average 508 yards in length. Three of the par 5s measure under 500 yards on the scorecard. Longer hitters will be able to reach the 5s in two and make a bunch of birdies. Power is usually an asset on tour and this week it is a necessity if you plan to keep up.
  • Just to give you an idea of how important power is, the last three winners are Jennifer Kupcho, Nelly Korda, and Brooke Henderson!
  • Second to scoring on the par 5s, these ladies will need an accurate approach game. With FIVE more par3s at an average length of 172 yards, they will need some serious mid-iron play. The par 3s and 5s cover over 55% of the holes these ladies will compete on. Each par 3 starts with a perfect lie. Get those iron shots on the green and you create more birdie opportunities.
  • The LPGA lacks great statistical analysis, but that doesn't stop us. I love to track putts per GIR to see who is converting the most birdie chances. An incredible scoring indicator, with all the chances each player will have, this conversion rate plays a huge role in creating contenders.
  • Scoring average on tour is the ultimate measuring stick. It is an aggregation of sub-par holes, par saves, birdie percentage and overall closing ability. Our outrights are all incredible scorers. They must be able to keep up. Each one has shown solid recent form as I don't expect any player to arrive off their game and drop 20 under par scores.

The Meijer is a unique combination of the skill sets needed for the past two weeks on tour. The power each contender showed at Liberty National combined with the small course accuracy of Seaview. Although not many were in the field for both, it gives the fans a great preview of how the Meijer Classic will play out. I know it will be tough to fit in more golf viewing during the US Open, but if you do switch the channel, I promise you'll get to see a nice shoot-out.

Outright winners - Meijer LPGA Classic

Last year, Hye Jin Choi finished the season with 14 top 15 finishes as a rookie! Her strength comes off the tee and with an aggressive iron game. She's excellent at converting birdie putts as seen by her sitting in the top 20 for both par 5 scoring and overall scoring average. We saw a slow start in her sophomore season, but recently she has been really getting back into that rookie season form. Tenth on tour in hitting GIRs, watch out for her in Michigan.

Charley Hull started the season strong; with two top 10 finishes. Although we haven't really focused on her lately, in seven 2023 starts, she missed one cut, and the rest of her finishes were in the top 23! That missed cut was a major, but guess what? This is the week before one. Hull's power helps her destroy par 5s. She's rankled third in par 5 scoring and seventh in scoring average. With five par 5s to attack, she can separate from the field without much scoring stress.

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