And the hits just keep on coming...
Congratulations to Brooke Henderson this past weekend for winning the Évian Championship and giving Read The Line members our 9th outright win of the season! That's two weeks in a row and our third major win of the year.
Did you see the final leaderboard at the Évian..? Last week, I predicted 5 outrights for the fourth women's major of the season. ALL 5 of those ladies finished in the Top 8. Women's golf is the ultimate test of my approach. We have very little information outside of professional experience, limited data and golf knowledge. To have that level of success week after week on the LPGA tour proves that Read The Line's prediction methods are extremely valuable.
Welcome to Motown
We have two weeks left before the FedEx Cup playoffs begin. This week we visit Detroit for the Rocket Mortgage Classic. This event started in 2019, here's a brief little history:
- 2019 Champion - Nate Lashley (Ranked 353 OWGR, pre-tourney odds +25000, winning score -25)
- 2020 Champion - Bryson DeChambeau (Ranked 10 OWGR, pre-tourney odds +700, winning score -23)
- 2021 Champion - Cam Davis (Ranked 134 OWGR, pre-tourney odds +15000, winning score -18)
The common denominator, this is a birdie-fest tournament. Players who have contended in this tournament have held a hot putter and hit plenty of greens in regulation. Detroit Golf Club is a Par 72 - 7,370 yard layout consisting of four Par 3's, four Par 5's, and ten Par 4's.
- The golf course was designed by Donald Ross in 1916.
- The facility has 36-holes, the tournament course is made up of seventeen holes from the North course and one hole from the South.
- Nine of the ten Par 4's are listed under 460 yards. Four of those holes are less than 400 yards!
- Eleven of the holes average under-par scoring. Of the seven that have a scoring average over par, five of them are Par 4's.
- Players hit a ton of greens in regulation at DGC.
To be a true birdie-fest, players have to give themselves a plethora of scoring opportunities. You can see scoring will be low and the cutline has been around three under par in each edition. Needless to say, you better bring your flatstick. A hot putter with better than average length should fare well here. During the tournament, the conditions look optimal for a shoot-out. What rain Detroit has seen in July came last week and totaled just over an inch.
- This week we expect temperatures in the mid to high 80's for the tournament. The wind looks relatively benign and other than a possible shower on Wednesday night, the course should play perfectly.
One thing to consider when it comes to this time of year is PGA Tour pros trying to keep their cards for next season. With just two events left before the playoffs, everyone outside the 125 ranking has a little extra motivation. Of course this year, it gets even more convoluted when we consider there are nine or ten names inside the Top 125 who have left for LIV. It's going to be an exciting finish to the season and the Rocket is a perfect start to this two-week dance with course designer Donald Ross (he designed next week's course Sedgefield CC as well).
Europe '22 continues
From the shores of Lake Léman in France, we travel over to the shores of the Firth of Clyde along the west coast of Scotland for the Trust Golf Women's Scottish Open. This event joined the LPGA tour in 2017 and that was also the last time the women visited Dundonald Links for the Scottish Open. The return to Dundonald is the fourth time Scotland's lady's open championship will be played there (2015, 16, 17). Located in Ayrshire, the course is just a little north of Royal Troon. These windswept lands are sure to test the best in the women's game.
- In the three previous Scottish Opens at Dundonald, the average winning score was just shy of 8 under par.
The Par 72, 6,494 yard test is a brilliant layout alongside the sea. The scorecard is the only thing that's standard as the course has four Par 3's, four Par 5's, and ten Par 4's. Although eight of those Par 4's are listed under 400 yards, don't let the length fool you, this place can play tough. Much of that difficulty comes from the weather, and as we look at this week's forecast you can see the ladies may have their hands full.
- The temperatures are predicted to sit in the mid-60's. Each day of the tournament will get colder as the predicted high on Sunday is 63 degrees.
- The wind will be steady all week at 12-15 mph. Steady wind usually isn't the problem, there will be gusts over 20 mph for the final two rounds when we begin to see some wet weather move in.
- Rain is in the forecast for Friday through Sunday. Accumulation numbers are in the .1-.2 range each day so we have what I like to call a nuisance rain coming.
The beautiful weather we encountered during the men's Open Championship is not commonplace on the shores of Scotland. Players are going to need to survive these four days to contend. You'll see very quickly in my list of outright predictions I'm definitely leaning on players with European history. In a field full of great players, we will need something to differentiate the pretenders from the contenders.
- Seven of the Top 10 players in the Rolex World Ranking are playing and twenty-one of the Top 30.
This is a warm-up for the final women's major championship of the season; the AIG Women's Open. Coming off their fourth major last week, this four week tour is truly highlighted by next week's trip to Muirfield. Although it is on the east coast of Scotland, conditions will be very similar to this week. There's no better way to contend in the Women's Open than to get your game into contention this weekend.
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Considering the schedule position, the Rocket Mortgage Classic has garnered quite a strong field. Nestled in no man's land between the last major and the playoffs isn't an ideal location for the top-ranked players in the world, but we do have five of the Top 25 in the OWGR and a strength of field rating 120 points above that of last week's 3M and 174 points above the John Deere.
To break down our outright list for this birdie-fest, let's start from the green and work our way back to the tee. Putting is the most important skill when it comes to scoring in these types of birdie bonanzas. When you consider about fourteen players will hit over 80% of their GIRs, having that equate to a very high Birdie or Better percentage (BoB%) is crucial to contending. Over the past three years, the players who lead that scoring category has done very well. I have also considered Strokes Gained Putting and putting in the five to ten foot zone as well.
The approach game at DGC is dominated by wedge play.
- Shots from 75-150 yards make up 45% of your approaches. The largest percentage (19%) comes in the 125-150 yard range.
- It has been established, that hitting greens is mandatory to make the cut, and therefore the GIR% (72%) is well above the PGA Tour weekly average (66%).
- Every green has bunkers to contend with. Strong short game skills are necessary on a Ross design to keep a low round going and avoid bogeys. The successful scrambling percentage (63%) is also well above the PGA Tour average (58%).
When we get back to the tee, it doesn't take long to see how length can be an advantage here. The average driving distance is eleven yards more than the PGA Tour average. Statistically, this is one of the easiest off the tee courses on tour. When you are ranked 39th of 40 courses on tour in penalty shot percentage, players have no choice but to use the driver effectively. Can a shorter player win? Yes, but the path to contend for longer more powerful players is proven to be an advantage at DGC.
We need a great putter, with a sensational wedge game, power off the tee, and an innate ability to score at will. These players perfectly fit that mold and I know could be singing some Elton John come Sunday... "I'm a Rocket-man!"
- I have been singing the praises of Cam Young since the start of the season. Coming off a runner-up finish at St. Andrews and heading to a northern Donald Ross design he's in a great position to pull off his first win. He's ranked first in this field for BoB%, second T2G and third in Strokes Gained Par4 scoring. He fits every category here although some may argue he's not a good enough putter. They may be right, but he's ranked sixth in the field for putts made from 5-10'. We almost missed him at The Open, I'm not going to miss his first PGA Tour win here.
- Players with multiple wins have been a theme on the PGA Tour in this wraparound season. Smith, Scheffler, Matsuyama, Schauffele, and Burns are all young stars who have set themselves apart. There's one more guy who's won more than once this season and that's Max Homa. Coming into this week, he displays all the skills needed to win. Some may point to a missed cut at The Open, but he was playing with his hero. The best all-around player at the top of the board, he's ranked in the top twenty for BoB% (12), SG:T2G (4), SG:Putt (14), SG:Short Game (19), and SG:Par4 (11). He's got more win equity than most in the field as well. Watch as he makes his way to the top come Sunday and shows that killer resolve to take home the title.
Outright winners - Rocket Mortgage Classic
Cam Young (+2000)
Max Homa (+2500)
Pick 3* (+4200)
Pick 4* (+7000)
(*- member content)
Finding a link to the winner
Dundonald Links has hosted the 2015, 16, and 17 Ladies Scottish Open. It has also hosted the 2017 Men's Scottish Open won by Rafa Cabrera-Bello. It is a great test of true links-style golf. The windswept layout can easily test the world's best. In three previous editions for the women, only one winner was double digits under par (-11 in 2016). Cabrera-Bello won in '17 with a 13 under par total.
The course is known for its undulating green complexes. I am favoring ladies who can handle the flatstick in challenging conditions. We saw it two weeks ago at St. Andrews when Cam Smith put from everywhere to win the Claret Jug. I expect the same level of skill needed to take this title. In many cases, we're not just talking about making birdie putts. With an expected score around 8-10 under par, many of those putts will be to save par. Therefore around the green skill is my second necessary trait needed to contend.
Previously playing in the Scottish Open isn't a necessity, but having a good amount of European tour success is. The conditions this week will test their patience and decision-making. Growing up in conditions like these is an added advantage. The Évian was quite pleasant last week. This won't be the same experience. All of my outrights are from Europe just for this very reason.
Dundonald is very generous off the tee. Although the course isn't very long by LPGA standards, I don't believe it will favor shorter players.
- Par 3 average length 153.5 yards
- Par 4 average length 385.9 yards
- Par 5 average length 505.25 yards
All of those values are below average for the LPGA. If you take into account the wind and weather, the advantage of hitting the driver long and accurately is significant. It sounds a lot like the Rocket, but if you can be long off the tee and roll the rock on the greens I know you will contend in Ayrshire this week.
- My first outright selection is taking the Ladies European Tour by storm this season. Linn Grant has three wins in ten events. One of those wins came against the DP World Tour men in the Scandinavian Mixed tournament. She's finished in the Top 10 in nine of those events and her worst finish is thirteenth! If you took her LET season statistics, she would rank first in birdies per round, second in scoring average, and fourth in greens in regulation on the LPGA tour. That's very impressive and in her debut last week against the best women in the world she fired a 64 on Sunday to finish 8th. Being from Sweden, she's no rookie to playing in bad weather. Watch this week as she continues her rise to stardom by contending in Scotland.
- In the three previous Scottish Opens at Dundonald, Georgia Hall has finished 33rd, 8th, and 9th. She's an incredible putter and possesses an above average short game. Reasonably long off the tee, Hall has a knack for making up distance through her solid iron game. Last week, she finished 8th at the Évian and she has seven Top 25 finishes on tour this season. The 2018 Women's Open winner can contend and win when it comes to links golf.
Outright winners - Scottish Open
Linn Grant (+2200)
Georgia Hall (+2500)
Pick 3* (+3000)
Pick 4* (+3500)
(*- member content)
9 wins by mid-July!
The Rocket Mortgage is a birdie-fest.
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