And the hits just keep on coming... (#14)
We have THREE wins on the LPGA in the last six weeks. If you include the PGA TOUR, we have FIVE wins in the last eight weeks! I know football rules the fall, but in the last three weeks RTL members have realized a 75-1 return on our last two wins. Congratulations to first time LPGA winner Angel Yin. Back in April, she lost a heartbreaking playoff to Lilia Vu at the Chevron Championship. On Saturday night in Shanghai, she met Vu in a playoff again. Her birdie on the first sudden death playoff hole sealed the FOURTEENTH Read The Line win of 2023!!!
The PGA TOUR is playing in Japan and the LPGA is playing in Korea. Both tournaments will begin on Wednesday night EDT time. Make sure you get your pre-tournament bets in prior to the start of each event!
The highlight event of the FedEx Cup Fall takes place overnight. The ZOZO Championship is played in Japan. This year will be the fifth edition of this limited field, no cut tournament. The host venue Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club has been utilized for three of the four years. In 2020, the tournament was played at Sherwood Country Club in California during covid-19 restrictions. This event will always be remembered for the 2019 edition where Tiger Woods won and collected his eighty-second career PGA TOUR win.
One thing that always catches your eye about Narashino CC are the green complexes. Each is designed with two full greens. Temperatures in Tokyo vary so much from season to season that premiere golf courses create two greens. One with warm weather grass, and the second for the opposite conditions. The par 70 layout covers 7,079 yards. Very short by TOUR standards, Narashino puts a premium on accuracy.
It starts with five par 3s. Approach play carries some serious weight when 28% of the holes you play only take one swing. Playing the par 3s under par for the week leads to contending. The second accuracy test comes off the tee. Narashino CC is tight. Keegan Bradley won a year ago by gaining twelve strokes against the field T2G. Our 2023 champion will need similar ball striking success. Tiger's winning year he lapped the field by 17 strokes T2G.
Narashino CC has a varied collection of holes even after the five par 3s. The three par 5s are long averaging 586 yards. Five par 4s measure under 425 yards and the other five are all over 485 yards in length. Those long par 4s are the five toughest holes relative to par. In three editions, the average winning score is 16 under par. Even though the course is tight and puts a premium on accuracy, players will score here. Believe it or not, Tiger held the longest pre-tournament odds of any of the winners at Narashino. He was +4000 to win in 2019. Bradley came in last year at +3000 and Hideki the year before was one of the favorites at +1000.
It has been relatively dry in Tokyo leading up to the tournament. Course conditions are ready for the TOUR and the forecast is much better than the rain/cold these guys played through last year. Temperatures will be in the low 70s and high 60s during the day. It will be windy on Friday (20+ mph). Don't worry, the 78-man field doesn't face a 36-hole cut. Everyone plays all four rounds for $8.5 million dollars. Win, and take home $1.53 million and an invite to the Masters!
We didn't plan on seeing many elite PGA TOUR stars after Rome. Fifteen of the top 50 are competing. An interesting move when you consider they had to travel around the world to play. Sponsors have a strong pull at times, yet these guys haven't played any stroke play tournament golf in seven weeks (50+ days)! We shall see how prepared they are to compete against those who are sharp and ready to avoid all 73 bunkers. They also face five holes with water and plenty of tree lined fairways.
I don't like covering tournaments overnight, but I do like this venue. It rewards solid players. If you catch a little insomnia this week, you do have that going for you.
ZOZO starts in...
Ball strikers paradise
What does it really mean when you read or hear the quote, "a ball strikers' paradise." Does that mean we lean on certain statistics? Will putting value or course history be diminished? How about recent form? Whether you are new to RTL or have been reading our narratives since the start, I take great pride in educating everyone as much as I feel a need to entertain as well.
Narashino Country Club is a great design. The layout is one of the best on the fall swing. It takes imagination and skill to create holes with multiple green complexes. It forces each player to keep the ball in play. Most golf enthusiasts only consider control when penalty areas are involved. The basic practice of hitting fairways and greens is continually tested on this course. The correlation between ball contact and contending here is proven and that is what it means to be a ball striker's course.
The three winners at NCC are Tiger, Hideki, and Keegan. Those examples reinforce the need for a solid swing. The three of them averaged gaining over 14 strokes against the field T2G.
- NCC has five Par 3's. Twenty-eight percent of your approach shots are being played off a tee this week.
- Over 55% of the approach shots players will face are over 175 yards. Forty percent fall in the 175-200 range.
- Eight tee shots move from right to left and conversely, five bend from left to right.
- We expect the wind to start from the southwest this week and turn to the north and northwest. This means more than half the holes will play with a crosswind.
The Par 4's amplify the correlation to contact as well. Five of the Par 4's are under 426 yards. To score, competitors will need a solid shot from the tee and a great wedge game to score. The other five Par 4's stretch over 485 yards! The driver first and then a mid to long iron in. Few courses test this kind of range on approach. Usually, a scorecard leans one way or the other. At NCC you will need to be good at both ends of the spectrum on the par 4s.
The challenge to keep the ball in play does not come without bogey moments. A player's ability to avoid those over-par scores keeps them on track for success. The test to control your golf ball at NCC extends all the way to the edge of the green. After all, T2G means just that. It covers around the green play as well. Between the elevation changes, fairway bunkers, elaborate green sites, and crosswinds, these guys will have their hands full.
I am very interested in the comparison between talent and current form. JT Poston was a favorite last week to win in Vegas. He showed some serious skill throughout the 72 holes, and a little rust. Many of these upper echelon guys just haven't played any competitive golf in a long time. Can the middle tier take advantage in such a small field event. Or will the guarantee of four rounds allow the best to eventually take over by the final nine holes.
To build the best outright list, I added specific statistics which show a player's ability to hit his targets. Not just the usual strokes gained analytics, but also the border elements as well.
- Who just misses the fairway or green?
- Can a player gain on the field through scrambling?
- These are Bentgrass greens, how will the putter help?
- Who are the best players off Zoysiagrass fairways?
Pars matter this week and proximity to the target (hole) emphasizes efficient ball striking. By analyzing a player's ability to come close as well as hit the fairway or green, we get a very good sense of who to include on the outright list. Enjoy the stars for four days. I doubt we will see any of them again until 2024.
Outright winners - ZOZO Championship
*- member content
From Buick to BMW
The Asia swing of the fall schedule continues with the BMW Ladies Championship. This is an elite event on tour and draws a tremendous field as a result. Seven of the top 10 and 20 of the top 30 players in the Rolex Rankings have made the trip to Seoul, South Korea. Seventy-eight women total will compete for $2.2 million dollars. Sixty-eight players are from the LPGA, eight sponsor exemptions, and two amateurs make up the complete list of competitors.
Everyone will play all four rounds of 72-hole stroke play. The low lady after Sunday will take home $330,000 for first place. The BMW features the finest designs in South Korea. The host venue this year just completed an amazing course renovation. The Seowon Valley Country Club is a 27-hole facility. The Seowon Hills course employs the West Course for the first nine holes and South Course for the closing back nine.
Together the scorecard reveals a par 72 course measuring 6,680 yards. Set on the side of a mountain, Seowon Hills is a perfect test for this premiere tournament. Bentgrass greens and Bluegrass fairway and rough grasses outline a visually stunning landscape. Seven holes bring water into play and the course has 55 bunkers. In an interesting twist, players will face more sand off the tee than around the putting surfaces.
The weather forecast starts a little wet but improves over the weekend. Temperatures on Thursday during round one will be in the mid 60s. Approximately .25" of rain are expected (90% chance). Thankfully the wind is only going to blow around 10 mph. Friday through Sunday looks dry with temps hovering in the low 60s. The breeze picks up a bit, but overall, the women will have decent playing conditions.
Low temperatures and softer conditions will limit roll and the course will play to its full length. Seowon Hills has plenty of “hills” and there are numerous elevation changes throughout all 18-holes. Players will be tested for length and accuracy. The LPGA joined this event in 2019. That elevated this championship in two ways. First, it brought a much better field to the fans of South Korea. Second, it became sort of a national championship. The South Korean players gear up for this tournament. It means a great deal to the players and fans to see their flag waving at the top of the leaderboard.
BMW is a wonderful host. They treat the men and women equally in their events. This week has the look and feel of a major championship. Ten percent of the field is in the top 10 of the world rankings. With no cut again, I expect a similar situation to last week where players in great form rise on Sunday. I predicted Angel's win based upon a very similar strategy and course research. (Thank God for Google translate.) Watch the replays this week on Golf Channel and enjoy the entertainment. The ladies will be firing on all cylinders for this one.
BMW starts in...
The design of Seowon Valley Country Club is cool. Set on a mountain just north of Seoul, the views we will see throughout coverage will just amaze you. That’s where my prediction research starts; high above the fairways of Seowon Hills. Analyzing the layout hole by hole, the venue can be attacked off the tee. The top of the LPGA's strokes gained OTT leaderboard has an advantage here. The fairways are not excessively wide, but between the damp start and cooler conditions ball speed is a benefit. Track those elevation changes as well. Going uphill always requires a little more length.
Four par 5s and an average par 4 length under 390 yards means the field will score here. There's no course history, but we have the best in game on property. The KLPGA has set previous editions up for scoring and I'm sure they will again. South Korea has a great golf fan base, and they are going to give them some birdies. Each of the four par 5s are reachable by the longer players. Just one more advantage length gives the field in the modern game.
A big step toward capitalizing on birdie opportunities comes with the flatstick. Putts per GIR is a great LPGA stat. Since their analytics are grossly incomplete, measuring a player's ability to convert chances is key. The winning score with just average weather in round one will still push into the high teens under par. These women are that good and we saw it last week when six players were tied for the lead in Shanghai with just two holes to play!
Scoring proficiency also comes from a those who play with a sense of urgency. Lexi Thompson and Lydia Ko sit outside the top 60 in points to qualify for the CME Group Tour Championship. Lexi played Las Vegas, but Lydia is here. Several players in this limited field made the trip to earn points against a small field. Ko is the defending champion. My point, aggressive play will be the norm this week. I selected players who can literally keep up.
Close inspection of those medium length par 4s calls for a varied skill set. The tee shots need to be shaped and those scoring and mid irons need to be sharp. The best par 4 scorers are on our card. Eleven of the 18 approach shots fall between 125-175 yards. This is the most common length on tour, but with the softer conditions it could play a little longer. Power pays and will be essential on the par 3s averaging 170 yards in length.
This course has fewer greenside bunkers than fairway sand. I don't believe around the green play will separate the contenders. A savvy par save down the stretch may matter, but overall, I want the best GIR girls. The fairways aren't nearly as tight as ZOZO, but they run alongside steep hillsides. The women and men have a very similar competitive setting. They both require great drivers and accurate approaches. It wouldn't surprise me if both winners have a similar skill set. It also wouldn't surprise me if we picked them as well.
After all, we have five outright wins in the last eight event weeks...
Outright winners - BMW Ladies Championship
*- member content
Read between the lines
The best place to follow news about Read The Line is right here!
6 more weeks of tournament play
Head right to our website and join! Read The Line.
Think you have a gambling problem? Reach out for help. Read The line promotes responsible gaming. If you or someone you know has a gambling problem and wants help, call 1-800-GAMBLER or visit these online resources: