That's outright winner #4!
We predicted our first LPGA winner of the year! Jin Young Ko closed with 5 birdies in the last 6 holes on Sunday to win by two strokes. Our two other LPGA outright selections finished in 6th place so with all three picks well inside the Top 10, let's ride that momentum a little north into Thailand!
The Honda LPGA Thailand takes place at Siam Country Club on their Old Course. This parkland golf course has a very unique design. All the holes either run north or south. This polar layout isn't something you see very often. Usually a course will have at least a couple holes that run east to west as well. Based upon the wind prediction this week, players will play into the wind as they leave the clubhouse starting each nine. As they return, they will feel the wind at their back leading to some exciting scoring near the finish.
- This event is being played in Thailand, get your bets placed by Wednesday afternoon!
- It's Southeast Asia, so be prepared for more hot and humid conditions. Temperatures will push 90 degrees each afternoon with a 50% chance of rain the first two days. Winds increase as the week wears on topping out at 12-15 mph over the weekend.
- 4 of the Top 10 in the Rolex World Rankings are here, 13 of the Top 25 - 65 players total will compete over 72 holes with no cut.
- The last 5 winners averaged 22.2 under par in order to win. Better pack some birdies in your suitcase. Especially when it comes to the 18th hole!
- This is a very parkland course with tree lined fairways and a bunch of elevation changes.
The PLAYERS Championship is the premiere PGA Tour event of the year. The first time I played the TPC Stadium course was in 1999. It was the week after David Duval won the tournament at -3 under par. The golf course was absolutely brutal. Reminds me of Bay Hill this past weekend. Well, I fired a smooth 81 that day and trudged into the Pro Shop to thank the Director of Golf afterward. With my head hung low, he asked me what was wrong? I mentioned the beating I took and he said, "If it makes you feel any better that's one better than Phil shot on Sunday!"
Although it is not a major championship, it has all the drama and purse of one. Speaking of money, this is the largest amount ever put up for a golf tournament ($20mil). The winner will receive $3.6 million dollars. That's significantly more than any of these players have ever competed for in one event. Therefore, plan on some unbelievable drama in those famous closing holes on Sunday. Last week, we wrote that sand would be a determining factor to deciding the outcome of the API. In the end, Gary Woodland made a double bogey from the bunker on 17 and Viktor was 3 of 13 for the tourney from the sand.
This weekend guys will be thinking about the 1st place prize. The collateral damage we witness will create amazing theater. Get ready... you've been warned.
The TPC Stadium course sits about 1.5 miles from the Atlantic Ocean. This weekend the weather plans to wreak havoc on the competitors.
- Rounds 1 and 2 will be plagued by rain. Some rain even into Saturday morning.
- Then Saturday night a cold front plans to settle in as the predicted low is below 40 degrees heading into Sunday morning.
- Strong winds will be brutal on Saturday afternoon (30+mph), so look for a middle of the pack early player on Saturday to join the leaders.
- The predicted temperature on Sunday is in the high 50's.
- Again, all of this just a mile or so from the ocean.
- Pete Dye can create scoring volatility. The average birdie rate for the 18 holes is 19.5%. The average bogey or worse rate? 19.9%. That's the averages. Players can make plenty of birdies this week, but to contend they must stay away from the large numbers.
46 of the Top 50 players in the world are here. Win this week and it is a life changing event (3.6 million!).
- The strength of field this week is 857! That's 10 points higher than any event in 2021. Proof positive, the PGA Tour doesn't have to worry about any rival leagues. The best are here and ready to go.
- This event has two very different editions. From 2007-2018 it was played in May. Those are completely different conditions than what the players face in March. When picking a player, make sure you properly weigh a competitor's history value prior to 2019.
- To my "live" weekend bettors, this is another tournament where you need to be near the top to win on Sunday. Considering the cold weather and wind, maybe even more this year. Only 1 time in the last 11 years has a winner come from further back than 4th place to win in the final round.
For the first time this calendar year, the PGA tour is going to battle some significant wet weather. Don't be alarmed, the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass is their flagship facility. This course has a sub-air system running under the greens. Unless there's a deluge, they can create whatever putting green conditions they want. Plan for some fun viewing this weekend in Jacksonville no matter what!
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It's like being on an island.
Predicting the winner of the PLAYERS Championship is very difficult. March weather, scoring volatility and strength of field all contribute to the equation. To take it a step further, course history doesn't play a very significant role at all considering the PGA Tour comes here every year. Take Rory for example, his last three visits to the PLAYERS; missed cut, win, missed cut.
Over the last 10 years, the average finish of the winner the year before they won was 48th. Not one of them finished below 16th! If you take into account the last 20 years, the average finish of the winner the year before they won was 43rd. Only three of those winners finished inside the Top 10 the year prior. Here's the point - this year's winner will come from the middle of the pack or worse last year...
- The average cutline over the last 6 March editions of the tournament is +1.
Approach with your short irons is a very strong key to contend.
- 75-125 yards account for 20% of your approach shots each round.
- 75-150 yards account for 40%.
- 75-175 yards account for 60%!
- Of the four major Strokes Gained categories (Off the Tee, Approach, Around the Green, Putting), the last 5 winners have averaged the following results. ARG - 11th, OTT - 15th, APP - 20th, P - 27th. Short game matters at Sawgrass.
- Wind and weather will play a significant role. This publication comes out 24 hours prior to play. Check the weather Wednesday night if you are playing any First Round Leader contests.
- Scrambling counts this week. What's scrambling? Scrambling is is a chip or a putt from less than 50 yards away that results in requiring one putt or less on the green. Players will be tested to save par on this course and scrambling is a great measure of their ability to do so.
I cannot stress this enough. The pressure inside this "Stadium" will be significant. I am selecting the most well-rounded players who have proven they can handle pressure filled moments. Here's what they are playing for:
- 1st Place - $3.6 million dollars, last year that would have put you 28th on the year long money list. You would have made the Tour Championship with just one tournament win.
- 2nd Place - $2.18 million dollars, a little more than what Scottie Scheffler picked up last week for winning at Bay Hill.
- 3rd Place - $1.38 million dollars, make double on the 17th hole Sunday and it will cost you over $2 million dollars if you drop from 1st to 3rd.
- 8th Place - where Ryan Brehm would place with his winning check from Puerto Rico last week ($666,000).
There's a career changing moment on the line this week and that's why I have chosen these three.
Tiger reincarnated when it comes to winning in big moments. Collin Morikawa has proven on multiple occasions that he can handle pressure. With 2 major championships in 7 tries this situation screams for him to show up. The best approach player in the game will dissect this course under damp conditions. Remember the approach yardage breakdown? Well look at his average proximity in those zones: 75-125: 12 feet, 75-150: 15 feet, 75-175: 17 feet. When I mention Collin, everyone is quick to counter with his putting. Well he's gained strokes putting in his last 4 tournaments. This stage was made for him.
Patrick Cantlay spent 100 days away from the PGA Tour this fall. Then he shows up at Kapalua and finishes 4th. Followed quickly by 9th at the Amex, 4th at Pebble and loses in a playoff at the WMPO. He's gained strokes in all 4 categories over his last 10 starts. He's ranked #1 in Par 5 scoring, 8th in SG:OTT and solid at scrambling. When it counts on Sunday he's already proven he has what it takes earning the nickname "Patty Ice." He's the FOURTH ranked player in the world and reigning FedEx Cup Champion. Needless to say he's qualified to get the job done in Jacksonville.
Billy Horschel closed with a 1 under par final nine holes at Bay Hill in the toughest conditions. That experience has positioned him to excel this week. He openly shared how much he loved the grind at the API. He gained 12 shots on the field at Arnie's place. Again in all aspects of the game, over 7 shots Tee to Green and 4.5 putting his game can't be in a better place. He also shares that combination of solid ball striking and great scrambling skill. He's putted well enough to win and since Sawgrass rewards solid ball striking this is a great fit to win.
For the record... last year Collin finished 41st, Billy finished 58th and Cantlay missed the cut. ;-)
Outright Winners - PLAYERS Championship
Collin Morikawa (+1400)
Patrick Cantlay (+2000)
Billy Horschel (+5000)
Time for Thailand
There's a couple very specific players traits I'm looking at this week for success at Siam Country Club (Old Course). This is a very parkland layout. We only have penalty areas on 6 of the 18 holes. The challenges here are tree lined fairways and a decent amount of elevation changes. The course has a plethora of bunkers (83), of which nearly 50 surround the greens. My model golfer is a great Off The Tee player who can also count on her Approach game to create birdie opportunities. She also must be comfortable in Thailand.
The most consistent player this season has been Brooke Henderson. In the first four tournaments, she has finished 2nd, 6th, 11th and 6th. Every stat line sets up in her favor. She's ranked #1 in sub par holes. She has 70 of them in four events! Ranked 2nd on the tour in Strokes Gained: Tee To Green her approach game is very strong (4th) and off the tee? Who could ever forget her first major championship win. She split the fairways of Sahalee at 18 years old and she's been just as long and accurate off the tee since. Without Jin Young or Nelly in the filed, she's the best ball striker there.
Atthaya Thitikul is not a household name. Only reason why, she's a 19 year old rookie. She finished 4th last week at the HSBC and is from Thailand. She finished 2nd in this event last year and even more impressive are the 6 elite amateur wins she has to her credit in southeast Asia. Performing in front of a home crowd she won the Ladies European Thailand Championship at 14 years old! The youngest person ever to win a professional tournament. She's in great form and something tells me a return to Thailand is the spark that ignites a winning fire.
This tournament has one 3-time winner. Amy Yang won the event in 2015, 17, and 2019. Worried about her recent play, she finished 6th last week in Singapore. What's the key to her success here? She's an exceptional player (ranked 5th SG:APP) and ball striker (2nd SG:T2G). Combine that with a Top 5 LPGA short game and she just fits this layout. There's plenty of ladies playing well in this field, but nobody has her course history. In the last six years, she has finished in the Top 20 5 times!
Outright Winners - Honda LPGA Thailand
Brooke Henderson - (+900)
Atthaya Thitikul - (+1400)
Amy Yang (+2000)
Did you see Hal Sutton?
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